Skip to main content

Full text of "Hurd's Letters on chivalry and romance : with the third Elizabethan dialogue"

See other formats

















\\ n n 



HURD'S Letters on Chivalry and Romance have been 
curiously neglected, considering how strong a light 
they throw upon the trend of critical thought in the 
second half of the eighteenth century. There has 
been no separate reprint for more than a century, while 
the only complete collected edition of his Works 
appeared as long ago as 1811. 

It is hoped that this edition of the Third Dialogue 
and of the Letters on Chivalry and Romance may help 
to reinstate Hurd in his rightful position among the 
heralds of the romantic revival in criticism. The text 
of the Letters has been reprinted from the first edition, 
which appeared in 1762, and has been carefully collated 
with that of the last edition which appeared during 
the author's lifetime, namely, that of 1788. The 
variations, other than those which are merely typo 
graphical, or unimportant changes in spelling and 
punctuation, are given in footnotes and appendices, and 
many of them show clearly the advance that was made 
in Kurd's critical outlook between these dates. The 
Dialogue, the authorship of which Hurd did not 
acknowledge when it first appeared, attributing it in 
a footnote to the Hon. Robt. Digby, has been reprinted 
from the edition of 1788. 

The following is a list of the editions of Letters 
on Chivalry and Romance and Moral and Political 
Dialogues : 

Letters on Chivalry and Romance, 1762 (reprinted in the same 

A 2 


Moral and Political Dialogues^ 1759 (reprinted in 1760). 
Moral and Political Dialogues, with Letters on Chivalry and 
P*omance } 1765 (reprinted in 1771, 1776, and 1788). 
Works of Richard Hurd, complete edition, 1811. 

Apart from Kurd's own works, and his list of the 
chief occurrences in his life which is included in this 
volume, the following are the most important books 
which refer to him and his achievements : 

Kilvert: Life of Hurd. 

Cradock : Literary Memoirs. 

Dictionary of National Biography. 

Chalmers : Biographical Dictionary. 

Nichols : Literary Anecdotes. 

Mme. d'Arblay : Diary. 

Walpole : Letters. 

Lessing : Hamburgische Dramaturgic. 

_^ Leslie Stephen : English Thought in the Eighteenth Century. 
^, Saintsbury : History of Criticism. 
+* Beers : Romanticism in the Eighteenth Century. 
^ Phelps : The Beginnings of the English Romantic Movement. 
^ Gosse : Eighteenth Century Literature. 
^ Seccombe : The Age of Johnson. 

Hamelius : Die Kritik in der englischen Liter atur des 17. und 
1 8. Jahrhunderts. 

In conclusion, I wish to express my sincere gratitude 
to Professor Ker and to Miss M. L. Lee for their kind 
ness in reading the MS. of my Introduction, and for 
the helpful suggestions they were good enough to 


October, 1911. 





AUTHOR ....... 19 

BETH -37 

DIALOGUE ...... -79 

APPENDICES ....... 156 


'THE ages, we call barbarous, present us with many a subject 
of curious speculation.' These words, with which Kurd opens 
his Letters on Chivalry and Romance, written in 1762, are 
epoch-making, in that they offer to eighteenth-century 
critics and scholars a new and hitherto undreamed-of point 
of view. The orthodox believers in classical rules and 
Aristotelian laws, the upholders of the ' Kinds ' and those 
who pinned their faith to sanity, clearness, and common 
sense, were accustomed to dismiss the Middle Ages con 
temptuously as barbarous times, unworthy of serious investi 
gation and discussion. The Augustan Age was not easily 
impressed by that spirit of mystery and wonder which is one 
of the attractions of mediaeval romance. Even Dryden 
regrets that Spenser did not know the maxims of Bossu ; 
most critics agree that Shakespeare suffered from his lack of 
art ; Milton is praised by Addison himself rather for the 
successful conduct of the war in heaven than for the romantic 
adventures of Satan in the infinities of space. 

Eighteenth-century classicists were not, as a rule, attracted 
to tales of gramarye : they were not prepared to yield, even 
momentarily, that * suspension of disbelief which constitutes 
poetic faith ', nor had they even a dim perception of the 
truth that 

' . . . nothing worthy proving can be proven, 
Nor yet disproven '. 

Yet in the very midst of the age of reason and of law the 
reaction began, and manifested itself in a multiplicity of 


ways. ' The return to nature,' the ' romantic revival,' ' the 
renascence of wonder,' call it by whatever name we choose, 
was not a sudden and unexpected phenomenon. The Lyrical 
Ballads of 1798 were by no means the first indication of the 
change which was taking place in prevalent habits of thought 
and modes of expression. In criticism, men of letters early 
began, almost in spite of themselves, to reject the gods to 
whom they still professed allegiance. The citadel of classicism 
* was first assaulted by the friends who claimed to defend it, 
and the attack was so insidious as to be irresistible. The very 
men who do most to bring about the Romantic Revival are 
strangely averse to its spirit of freedom and of individuality. 
Richard Hurd, the neo-classic upholder of Pope, the defender 
of Poetical Imitation, is one of the earliest to deviate from the 
beaten track, and is consequently of more importance than 
the ordinary neglect of his writings would lead one to suppose. 
In his own day, indeed, he was generally admired and 
esteemed 1 ; welcomed by the royal family at Windsor and 
elsewhere, as Fanny Burney faithfully records in her Diary ; 
a visitor to the Literary Club, where Dr. Johnson at any 
rate thought him worthy of his powder and shot ; the 
correspondent of Gray and some of his friends ; the intimate 
of Pope's champion, Warburton. It is perhaps this last 
alliance which has helped to bring him into disrepute. 
Macaulay's inscription in a copy of the Letters from a late 
eminent prelate to one of his friends, summed up their corre 
spondence as that of ' Bully to Sneak '. The latter title is 
not merited by Hurd, who, with all his formal conventionalism 

1 Professor Phclps, in The Beginnings of the English Romantic 
Movemcntjfievr York, 1893), says, ' Hurd's learning and authorita 
tive position counted for much ' in making his influence widely 
felt among critics and readers of poetry. 


and love of show and ceremony, appears fairly to have earned 
his position as Bishop of Worcester by his learning as well as 
by his careful observance of clerical duties. But Dr. Johnson 
would probably have been right had he called Hurd as he 
called ' Hermes Harris ', ' a prig, and a bad prig,' and such 
men are not as a rule attractive personalities. Even as a man, 
however, he does not deserve the harsh strictures of Sir 
Leslie Stephen (English Thought in the Eighteenth Century, 
vol. i, vii, 4 and 5), and as a critic he is incomparably greater 
than Mr. Edmund Gosse (Eighteenth Century Literature, 
p. 395) would seem to imply. 

Hurd has written enough to show that he possessed real 
scholarship and critical acumen. But his editions of Horace 
and of Addison, and his various Critical Dissertations, though 
they prove his learning, do not secure his fame. In 1759 
there appeared his Moral and Political Dialogues, the third 
and fourth of which deal with the age of Queen Elizabeth. 
The speakers are Digby, Arbuthnot, and Addison, whose 
visit to Kenilworth causes them to converse about ' the 
princely shows and sports which were once so proudly 
celebrated within these walls '- 1 Addison is reminded of 
nothing but ' barbarous manners and a despotic govern 
ment ', while Arbuthnot defends past times, and goes so far 
as to say that ' Gothic tilts and tournaments exceeded, both 
in use and elegance, even the Grsecian gymnastics '. This 
comparison is characteristic of Kurd's standpoint, which is 

1 Incidentally Hurd makes it clear that he has read Robert 
Laneham's letter to his fellow gildsman, Master Humfrey 
Martin, Mercer, in London now accessible in the publications 
of the Ballad Society (edited F. J. Furnivall, 1871), but in 1759 
to be obtained only in the edition of 1575. The British Museum 
has an edition of the Letter, republished in 1784, however, so that 
it was evidently known to students of the eighteenth century. 


also that of all those in whom the c antiquarian spirit 'is in 
any way aroused. One of the most striking signs of the times 
is this revival and discovery of history the newly awakened 
imaginative interest in the past, not as a mine from which 
examples and comparisons may be digged, but as a source of 
information concerning the rock from which we have been 
hewn. Gibbon's Decline and Fall (1776) is the first great 
work in which the differences between the centuries are made 
apparent, and his Essay upon the Study of Literature .(1761) 
(written in French) is one of the earliest attempts to deal 
with the development of literature. Thomas Warton's 
History of English Poetry (1774-81) is a much more ambitious 
venture in the same direction. He writes it in order 
to trace ' the dawnings of genius and to pursue the 
progress of our national poetry from a rude origin and 
obscure beginnings '. 

Realization of growth and development from century to 
century naturally goes hand in hand with a wider interest in, 
and sympathy for, thelife and aims of past ages, a breaking down 
of barriers and an appeal to a less circumscribed experience. 
This accounts for the attempts to understand Shakespeare or 
Spenser and their respective points of view to judge them 
with reference to Elizabethan times and Elizabethan ideals, 
not by an appeal to a standard which was unrecognized when 
they wrote. Kurd's Dialogues on the Age of Queen Elizabeth 
unites both these tendencies. He is immensely interested 
in the study of history : he has no hide-bound views about 
the pre-eminence of any particular period ; for his part he 
considers ' the legends of chivalry in a very serious light ', 
and he does not scruple to praise Pindar and Homer himself 
as * ancient masters of romance '. Perhaps most important 
of all is the stress he lays on the value of early writings as 


a true representation of the life and ideas of past ages, 
without some knowledge of which they cannot therefore be 
judged. In the Letters on Chivalry and Romance, as we shall 
see, this opinion is further developed into the express state 
ment that there are different types of poetry, each of which 
must be criticized according to its own aims and ends*. 

This recognition of the existence of two distinct schools, J 
the Gothic and the Classic, and Hurd's acceptance of both as 
worthy of admiration, leads him to make the comparison 
which forms the most valuable part of the Letters on Chivalry 
and Romance. We shall best appreciate it by summarizing 
his main argument and conclusions. 

The first Letter justifies Johnson's criticism of Kurd, as I 
belonging to a ' set of men who account for everything I 
systematically '. In it he not only proclaims the inherent I 
interest of Gothic chivalry and the spirit of Romance, but sets J 
out to discover ' some latent cause of their production ', and 
the conditions and circumstances in which they had their 
origin. For, since some of the greatest geniuses of our own 
and foreign countries, Ariosto, Tasso, Spenser, Milton, have 
been charmed by old romances, there may possibly be some 
thing in them * peculiarly suited to the views of a genius, and 
to the ends of poetry '. He proceeds therefore toji^jtucty 
of ' the rise, progress, and genius_ of Gothic chivalry *, and 
of the reasons * tor the decline and rejection of Gothic taste 
in later times\ In Letter II he gives the historical facts 
upon which he bases his opinion that chivalry was ' the 
natural and even sober effect of the feudal policy ', for the 
characteristics of which (Letter III) it is consequently easy 
to account. ' Prowess, Generosity, Gallantry, and Religion ' 
are the natural virtues of a military age. In the next Letter, 
Hurd gives the authorities from whom he has obtained his 


information, stating in so many words that he has not 
perused the ' barbarous ' old Romances himself. As a classical 
scholar he has no personal leanings to this ' ungrateful task ' 
a curious sidelight on his attitude of mind. It is in this same 
Letter IV that Hurd begins his comparison of the ' circum 
stances of agreement between the heroic and gothic manners ', 
which implies the most remarkable admission in the book. 
The recognition of the correspondence between the manners 
of the old heroic times, ' as painted by their great romancer 
Homer, 1 and those which are represented to us in the books 
of modern knight errantry,' tacitly accepts the premise which 
is later on amplified, that comparison between the two ages 
is natural and justifiable. This is a long step towards the 
admission of possible equality in other matters. Thus 
criticism has by this time enlarged its boundaries : it is no 
longer solely occupied with preconceived literary theories, 
treated invariably from the same point of view. It is begin 
ning to include in its scope, the life of the individual and of 
the nation to which he belongs ; to demand the investigation 
of philosophical and social questions ; to study literary 
history, and simultaneously the history of thought and of 
life. The new test of the value of a work is coming slowly to 
be its relationship with other things. 

Hurd works out in some detail the resemblances between 
the political conditions of ancient Greece and those of feudal 

1 Hurd is quoting from his authority, Histoire de V Academic 
des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, vol. xx, p. 600 ; Memoires sur 
Vancienne chevalerie, par M. de la Curne de Sainte-Palaye, 1746. 
In the first Elizabethan Dialogue (edition of 1811, p. 191), he also 
refers to this memoir as proving the truth and reality of the 
descriptions found in the old romances. Hurd owes a good deal 
to another book by the same writer, Memoires sur Vancienne 
cbevalene, published in 1759, a debt which he also honourably 


times, concluding (Letter V) that the poets of each age will, 
as a result of this likeness, be engaged in the representation 
of similar subjects. * So far as the heroic and Gothic manners 
are the same, the pictures of each, if well taken, must be 
equally entertaining 5 (Letter VI). Nay, further, the 
advantage is clearly with the age of chivalry, because of * the 
improved gallantry of the feudal times, and the superior 
solemnity of their superstitions '. It is a far cry from the 
Augustan contempt for Gothic rudeness to the admission 
that * the mummeries of the pagan priests were childish, but 
the Gothic E ncha nters shook and alarmed all nature. We 
feel this difference very sensibly in reading the ancient and 
modern poets. You would not compare the Canidia of 
Horace with the Witches in Macbeth. And what are Virgil's 
myrtles dropping blood, to Tasso's enchanted forest ? ' After 
this, even the conclusion of the Letter, with its bold claim 
for romantic poetry, ceases to be altogether overwhelming : 
' We are upon enchanted ground, my friend ; and you are 
to think yourself well used that I detain you no longer in this 
fearful circle. The glympse you have had of it will help your 
imagination to conceive the rest. And without more words 
you will readily apprehend that the fancies of our modern 
bards are not only more gallant, but, on a change of the scene, 
more sublime, more terrible, more alarming, than those of 
the classic fablers. In a word, you will find that the manners 
they paint, and the superstitions they adopt, are the more 
poetical for being Gothic.' 

Evidently ' the charms of fairy prevailed ' with Hurd ; in 
spite of his classical bias, he had, like his betters, * a certain 
predilection for 

' . . . forests and enchantments drear, 
Where more is meant than meets the ear.' 


In Letter VII he shows that Spenser and Milton, the 
English poets who best merit comparison with Homer, were 
both 'rapt with the Gothic fables of chivalry'. Thus 
Spenser, who might ' no doubt ' have planned a poem on 
the classic model, deliberately chose the Gothic, and it is as 
a Gadiic_^o^ni_that the Faerie Queen is to be read and 
criticized another specific statement that literature must 
be judged ' with the same spirit that the author writ ', irre 
spective of current standards. 

Milton, though he preferred the classic model, hesitated 
long as to his choice of subject, and even though he determined 
against ' Arthur and his Knights of the round table ', ' we 
see thro' all his poetry, where his enthusiasm flames out most ', 
a genuine delight in the legends of chivalry. Clearly, it is 
no defect in Kurd's eyes, that Milton gives way to 'en 
thusiasm ' : the implication appears rather to be that he is 
at such moments greatest. The appeal to Spenser and Milton 
serves, in itself, as a forcible reminder how greatly the good 
bishop was influenced by theWartor^brpthers. On the whole, 
Kurd's views are more advanced and better supported than 
those of the first edition of Thomas Warton's Observations on 
the Faerie Queen l (1754). But the line of argument is very 
similar, and Warton has the advantage of earlier publication 
to counterbalance his obvious self-restraint in expression. 

1 The second edition, which appeared in the same year as 
Kurd's Letters, is much more emphatic about, the need to study 
the age of chivalry in all its bearings. Old romances throw 
considerable light on the nature of the feudal system. * Above 
all, such are their Terrible Graces of magic and enchantment, so 
magnificently marvellous are their fictions and fablings, that 
they contribute in a wonderful degree to rouse and invigorate 
all the powers of the imagination : to store the fancy with those 
sublime and alarming images, which true poetry best delights 
to display ' (vide Postscriptum). 


Kurd's seventh Letter concludes with the explicit state 
ment that Shakespeare is at his best when he ( uses Gothic 
manners and machinery, and that this may be talen~as 
a further proof of their superiority to the classical * in pro 
ducing the sublime '. Letter VIII is in some respects the 
most important of the whole series. It emphasizes the j 
earlier contention that a poem must be judged according 
to the ideal which the poet has set before himself, since * when 
an architect examines a Gothic structure by Grecian rules, 
he finds nothing bit deformity^ But the Gothic architecture 
has it's own rules, by which, when it comes to be examined, 
it is seen to have it's merit, as well as the Grecian. The 
question is not which of the two is constructed in the sim 
plest or truest taste : but, whether there be not sense and 
design in both', when scrutinized by the laws on which each 
is projected.' Kurd goes on to prove his capacity to deal 
with his subject, by an examination of the Faerie Queene in 
the light of this belief. He goes further, indeed, than most ^ 
modern critics, when he maintains that it has * that sort of 
unity and simplicity which results from it's nature '. On the / 
other hand, there is real critical acumen in the realization 
that the ' classic ideas^oJL-Unity./ . . . have no place here '. 
Kurd is firm in his conviction that pedantic faith in the rules 
can only mislead the admirers of Spenser. The representation 
of one entire action is not the only possible unity. Spenser 
has achieved * unity of design ', which is sufficient to knit 
the poem together and make it, as Aristotle demands, * serious, 
complete, and of a certain magnitude.' Spenser goes wrong 
only when he allows his knowledge of the classic rules to cause 
him to confuse two different kinds of composition. It was 
a vain attempt to achieve unity of action by giving 'the 
appearance of one action to his twelve adventures ', and by 


introducing 'one superior character which should be seen 
throughout '. ' His expedients were injudicious. Their 
purpose was to ally two things, in nature incompatible, the 
Gothic, and the classic unity ; ... I am of opinion . . . the 
Poet had done well to affect no other unity than that of 
design, by which his subject was connected.' 

For a similar reason, i. e. that Spenser was mistaken in 
attempting to blend two different kinds of writing, Hurd 
objects to the allegory, though he admits that this justifies, 
for its own purpose, the introduction of Prince Arthur. The 
moral is needed to give unity to an allegorical poem : the 
ideas and usages of chivalry give unity of design to the 
narrative. But 'from the union of the two designs there 
arises a perplexity and confusion, which is the proper, and 
only considerable, defect of this extraordinary poem '. 

The wisdom of Spenser's determination to make the form 
of his work correspond with his subject is shown by a com 
parison between the Faerie Queen and the Gierusalemme 
Liberata (Letter IX). Tasso conducts his fable with strict 
regard to the unity of action, but Hurd obviously considers 
Spenser's plan to be far more successful, even though French 
critics had formerly been loud in their praises of Tasso 
apart from ' his magic tales and faery enchantments '. But 
though Tasso is preferred to Ariosto by the French criticism 
which superseded Italian taste, ' the mixture of the Gothic 
manner in his work has not been forgiven.' English imitators 
blindly follow French authority, and the ' Gothic manner ' 
becomes the favourite object of raillery with Da vena nt, 
Rymer, ' and the rest of that school ', including Lord Shaftes- 
bury. Finally, ' cold Boileau happened to say something of 
the clinquant of Tasso,' and Italian poetry at once stood 
condemned in the eyes of all pretenders to taste, and even of 


Addison himself. The greatest English critics (Letter X) 
condemn Italian poets, in spite of their manifest beauties. 
This is because they hold that tales of faery are unnatural and 
absurd, and that, moreover, the poets ' expect to have their 
lyes believed '. Kurd's answer is significant. ' They think it 
enough, if they can but bring you to imagine the possibility 
of them.' This looks like the foreshadowing of Coleridge's 
defence of supernatural subjects, and of the romantic belief 
in the worth of imagination and of imaginative conceptions. 1 
* So little account does this wicked poetry make of philo 
sophical or historical truth : All she allows us to look for, is 
poetical truth? and this is not limited to ' the conceived 
possibility of nature '. Kurd enlarges upon this dictum, 
which he quotes from Hobbes. To follow nature is not to 
be confined to ' the known and experienced course of affairs 
in this world '. In the poet's realm, imagination is of more *\ j 
importance than experience : ' all is marvellous and extra 
ordinary,' though not necessarily in every sense * unnatural '. 
In those species of poetry which professedly deal with men C| <| 
and manners, or with human passions, the laws of probability 
must be strictly observed if the reader is to be moved and \ 
affected. ' But the case is different with the more sublime i *\ S 
and creative poetry ' which addresses itself ' solely or princi 
pally to the Imagination '. [It should be remembered that 
the poetry most in vogue when Hurd was writing does not 
come into this category as here defined.] ' The divine dream 
and delirious fancy are among the noblest of ' poetic preroga 
tives ; the resulting ' fictions ' are undervalued only because 
' readers do not usually do, as they ought, put themselves in 
the circumstance of the poet, or rather of those of whom the 

1 Cp. the dictum : ' What the Imagination conceives as Beauty 
is Truth.' 

824*31 B 


poet writes.' Here Kurd is emphatically on the side of the 
angels or at any rate of modern critical aesthetics, as con 
trasted with the more limited conceptions of his own century: 

Letter XI is in some ways more commonplace in subject- 
matter than its predecessors. It examines the reasons why 
'classical manners are still admired and imitated by the 
poets when the Gothic have long since fallen into disuse.' But 
Kurd's treatment of the question is refreshingly novel. He 
points out that no great poet arose to do honour to Gothic 
manners, while very early real genius, in the person of 
Chaucer, was employed against them. Sir Tbopas laughs at 
the exaggerations of the old romances, which, with their 
extravagant pictures, were already out of date. According to 
Hurd,who is not an authority on the subject, Chaucer exposes 
their ' impertinencies only ' the abuses of the ' phantoms of 
chivalry ', not its fair representation by a capable writer j but 
then no such writer arose until the manners which sprang 
out of the feudal system appeared unnatural, because anti 
quated and superseded. Thus * romance ', because suited 
only to an artificial code of etiquette peculiar to a particular 
age, has become a term of contempt, * while the classic manners, 
as arising out of the customary and usual situations of 
humanity,' remain eternally fresh and natural. Spenser 
must, therefore, for aught Kurd can see, 'be left to the 
admiration of a few lettered and curious men ' who know 
enough of the ' barbarous ages ' to believe that ' romantic 
manners ' ever really existed. 

The last Letter (XII) attempts to trace the gradual revo 
lution in modern taste which led to the rejection of the 
wonders of chivalry and of romance. Ultima telyreason gained 
* the ascendant over the portentous spectres of the imagina 
tion. It's growing splendour, in the end, put them all to 


flight and allowed them no quarter even amongst the poets '. 
Common sense was offended by the perversion of truth ; 
' fancy, that had wantoned it so long in the world of fiction, 
was now constrained, against her will, to ally herself with 
strict truth if she would gain admittance into reasonable 
company. What we have gotten by this revolution, you will 
say, is a great deal of good sense. What we have lost, is a world 
of fine fabling ; the illusion of which is so grateful to the 
charmed spirit. 9 

On this note Hurd ends his Letters. He did not die (1808) 
until a fresh revolution of taste of which he is a herald 
had been completed. There is, alas, no record to tell us how 
he greeted The Ancient Mariner and 1 Christabel : we do not 
even know whether he read The Lay of the Last Minstrel. 
The Letters on Chivalry and Romance incline one to believe 
his criticism would have been more just than that of Quarterly 
and Edinburgh reviewers, more discriminating than that of 
Byron, with his talk about ' stale romance '. 

2 * The following particulars, in the author's own hand 
writing, and endorsed by him " Some Occurrences in my 
Life. R.W." were found amongst his papers after his 

1 Cbristabel was not published until 1816, but it was composed 
much earlier, Pt. I in 1798, Pt. II in 1800. Scott had heard 
and been influenced by Cbristabel before he wrote the Lay in 
1805 : it was known to Byron when he wrote Mazeppa, and 
there are other proofs that it had become accessible several 
years before its formal publication. 

8 Reprinted from Works^ 1811, vol. i, p. vii. 

B 2 





RICHARD HURD was born at Congreve, in the 
Parish of Penkrich, in the County of Stafford, 
January 13 ....... 1719-20 

He was the second of three children, all sons, of 
John and Hannah Hurd 5 plain, honest, and good 
people ; of whom he can truly say with the poet 

Si natura juberet, etc. 

They rented a considerable farm at Congreve, 
when he was born ; but soon after removed to a 
larger atPenford, about half way between Brewood 
and Wolverhampton in the same County. 

There being a good Grammar School at Brewood, 
he was educated there under the Reverend Mr. 
Hillman, and, upon his death, under his successor, 
the Reverend Mr. Budworth both well qualified 
for their office, and both very kind to him. 

Mr. Budworth had been Master of the School 
at Rudgely ; where he continued two years after 
his election to Brewood, while the School-house, 
which had been much neglected, was repairing. 
He was therefore sent to Rudgely immediately on 
Mr. Budworth's appointment to Brewood,returned 
with him to this place, and continued under his 
care, till he went to the University. 

He must add one word more of his second Master. 
He knew him well, when he afterwards was of an 
age to judge of his merits. He had been a scholar 
of the famous Mr. Blackwell of Derby, and after- 


A. D. 

wards bred at Christ's College in Cambridge, where 1719-20 

he resided till he had taken his M.A.'s degree. He 
understood Greek and Latin well, and had a true 
taste of the best writers in those languages. He 
was, besides, a polite, well-bred man, and singu 
larly attentive to the manners, in every sense of 
the word, of his scholars. He had a warm sense 
of virtue and religion, and enforced both with a 
natural and taking eloquence. How happy, to 
have had such a man, first, for his school-master, 
and then for his friend. 

Under so good direction, he was thought fit for 
the University, and was accordingly admitted in 
Emanuel College, in Cambridge, October 3, . 1733 

but did not go to reside there till a year or two 

In this college, he was happy in receiving the 
countenance, and in being permitted to attend the 
Lectures, of that excellent Tutor, Mr. Henry Hub- 
bard, although he had been admitted under 
another person. 

He took his B.A.'s degree in . . I73 8 ~9 

He took his M.A.'s degree, and was elected 
fellow in 1742 

Was ordained Deacon, i3th of June that year 
in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, by Dr. Jos. 
Butler, Bishop of Bristol and Dean of St. Paul's, 
on Letters Dimissory from Dr. Gooch, Bishop of 

Was ordained Priest, 20 May . . . 1744 

in the Chapel of Gonville and Caius College, 
Cambridge, by the Bishop of Norwich, Dr. Gooch. 

He took his B.D.'s degree in . . . . 1749 

He published the same year Remarks on 
Mr. Weston's book on the Rejection of Heathen 
Miracles^ and his Commentary on Horace's Ars 



Poetica; which last book introduced him to the 1749 

acquaintance of Mr. Warburton, by whose recom 
mendation to the Bishop of London, Dr. Sherlock, 
he was appointed Whitehall Preacher in May I 75 

He published the Commentary on the Epistle 
to Augustus in ...... 1751 

the new edition of both Comments, with Dedica 
tion to Mr. Warburton, in . . . . 1753 

the Dissertation on the Delicacy of Friendship 

in . ..... 1755 

His Father died November 27 this year, zet. 70. 

He published the Remarks on Hume's Natural 
History of Religion in ..... 1757 

Was instituted this year, Feb. 16, to the Rec 
tory of Thurcaston, in the County of Leicester, 
on the presentation of Emanuel College. 

He published Moral and Political Dialogues . 1759 

He had the Sine-cure Rectory of Folkton, near 
Bridlington, Yorkshire, given him by the Lord 
Chancellor (Earl of Northington) on the recom 
mendation of Mr. Allen, of Prior Park, near Bath, 
November 2, 1762 

He published the Letters on Chivalry and 
Romance this year. 

- Dialogues on Foreign Travel in 1763 

And Letter to Dr. Leland of Dublin in 1764 

He was made Preacher of Lincoln's Inn, on the 
recommendation of Mr. Charles Yorke, etc. 
November 6, . . . . , . . 1765 

Was collated to the Archdeaconry of Gloucester, 
on the death of Dr. Geekie, by the Bishop, 
August 27, I7 6 7 

Was appointed to open the Lecture of Bishop 
Warburton on Prophecy in .... 1768 

He took the degree of D.D. at Cambridge Com 
mencement this year. 



He published the Sermons on Prophecy in 1772 

His Mother died February 27, 1773, set. 88. 1773 

He was consecrated Bishop of Lichfield and 
Coventry, the i2th of February 1775 

He published the ist Volume of Sermons 
preached at Lincoln's Inn 1776 

And was made Preceptor to the Prince of Wales 
and his brother Prince Frederick, the $th of June 
the same year. 

Preached before the Lords, December 13, 1776, 
first Fast for the War. 

He lost his old and best friend, Bishop War- 
burton, June 7th 1779 

He published the 2nd and 3rd Volumes of Ser 
mons in ....... 1780 

These three Volumes were published at the 
desire of the Bench of Lincoln's Inn. 

He was elected Member of the Royal Society of 
Gottingen, January n 1781 

The Bishop of Winchester (Dr. Thomas) died 
Tuesday, May i, 1781. Received a gracious letter 
from his Majesty the next morning, by a special 
messenger from Windsor, with the offer of the See 
of Worcester, in the room of Bishop North, to be 
translated to Winchester, and of the Clerkship of 
of the Closet, in the room of the late Bishop of 

On his arrival at Hartlebury Castle in July that 
year, resolved to put the Castle into complete 
order, and to build a Library, which was much 

The Library was finished in . . . . 1782 

and furnished with a collection of books, late 
Bishop Warburton's, and ordered by his will to be 
sold, and the value given to the Infirmary at 
Gloucester 1783 



To these, other considerable additions have been 1783 

since made. 

Archbishop Cornwallis died in 1783. 

Had the offer of the Archbishoprick from his 
Majesty, with many gracious expressions, and 
pressed to accept it ; but humbly begged leave 
to decline it, as a charge not suited to his temper 
and talents, and much too heavy for him to sus 
tain, especially in these times. 

The King was pleased not to take offence at this 
freedom, and then to enter with him into some 
confidential conversation on the subject. It was 
offered to the Bishop of London, Dr. Lowth, and 
refused by him, as was foreseen, on account of his 
ill health. It was then given to Dr. Moore, Bishop 
of Bangor. 

Added a considerable number of books to the 
new Library at Hartlebury in ^84 

Confirmed Prince Edward (their Majesties' 4th 
son) in the Chapel of Windsor Castle, May I4th, 

1785 " 1785 

Added more books to the Library this year. 1785 

And put the last hand (at least he thinks so) to the 

Bishop of Gloucester's Life, to be prefixed to the 

new edition of his works now in the press. 

Confirmed Princess Augusta (their Majesties' 

second daughter) in the Chapel of Windsor Castle, 

December the 24th this year 1785 

Preached in the Chapel the next day (Christmas 

Day) and administered the Sacrament to their 

Majesties and the Princess Royal and Princess 


Preached before the Lords the 3oth of January. 1 786 

His Majesty was pleased this year to bestow 

a prebend of Worcester (vacant by the death of 

Dr. Young) on my Chaplain, Mr. Kilvert. 

I N KURD'S LI F E. 25 


Preached before their Majesties and Royal 1786 

Family in the Chapel of Windsor Castle, and 
administered the Sacrament to them, on Christ 
mas day 1786. 

In the end of February this year . . 1788 

was published in seven volumes 4to a complete 
'edition of the works of Bishop Warburton. The 
Life is omitted for the present. 

March 13, 1788, a fine gold Medal was this day 1788 

given me by his Majesty at the Queen's House. 

The King's head on one side. The Reverse was 
taken from a Seal of mine a , which his Majesty 
chanced to see, and approved. 

The Die was cut by Mr. Burch, and the Medal de 
signed for the annual Prize-Dissertation on Theo 
logical Subjects in the University of Gottingen. 

This summer the King came to Cheltenham to 
drink the waters, and was attended by the Queen, 
the Princess Royal, and the Princesses Augusta and 
Elizabeth. They arrived at Cheltenham in the 
evening of Saturday July the izth, and resided in July 12* 

a house of Earl Falconberg. From Cheltenham 
they made excursions to several places in Glouces 
tershire and Worcestershire, and were every where 
received with joy by all ranks of people. 

On Saturday, August the second, They were Aug. 2 

pleased to visit Hartlebury, at the distance of 
thirty-three miles, or more. The Duke of York 
came from London to Cheltenham the day defore, 
and was pleased to come with them. They arrived 
at Hartlebury at half an hour past eleven. Lord 
Courtoun, Mr. Digby (the Queen's Vice-Chamber 
lain), Col. Gwin (one of the King's Equerries), the 

[ a A Cross with the initials on a label I. N. R. I. a Glory above, 
and the motto below EK III2TEQ2.] 



Countesses of Harcourt and Courtoun, composed 1788 

the suite. Their Majesties, after seeing the House, 

breakfasted in the Library ; and, when they had 

reposed themselves some time, walked into the 

Garden, and took several turns on the Terrases, 

especially the Green Terras in the Chapel Garden. 

Here they shewed themselves to an immense croud 

of people, who flocked in from the neighbourhood, 

and standing on the rising grounds in the Park, 

saw, and were seen, to great advantage. The day 

being extremely bright, the shew was agreeable 

and striking. About two o'clock, their Majesties, 

etc. returned to Cheltenham. 

On the Tuesday following, August the fifth, Aug. 5 

their Majesties, with the three Princesses, arrived 
at 8 o'clock in the evening at the Bishop's Palace 
in Worcester, to attend the charitable meeting of 
the three Quires of Worcester, Hereford, and 
Gloucester, for the benefit of the widows and 
orphans of the poorer Clergy of those Dioceses ; 
which had been fixed, in consequence of the 
signification of the King's intention to honour 
that solemnity with his presence, for the 6th, yth, 
and 8th of that month. 

The next morning a little before 10 o'clock, the 
King was pleased to receive the compliments of 
the Clergy. The Bishop, in the name of himself, 
Dean and Chapter and Clergy of the Church and 

b ' We, the Bishop and Dean and Chapter and Clergy of the 
Church and Diocese of Worcester, humbly beg leave to present 
our dutiful respects to your Majesty, and to express the joy we 
feel on your Majesty's arrival at this place. 

'Your presence, Sir, gladdens the hearts of your faithful 
subjects, wherever you go. But We, the Clergy of this place, have 
a peculiar cause to rejoice in the honour vouchsafed us at this 
time ; a time, devoted to an excellent charity for the relief of 



Diocese, addressed the King in the Great Hall, 1788 

in a short speech b to which his Majesty was 
pleased to return a gracious answer. He had then 
the honour to address the Queen in a few words, 
to which a gracious reply was made ; and they had 
,all the honour to kiss the King's and Queen's hand. 
Soon after 10, the Corporation, by their Re 
corder, the Earl of Coventry, addressed and went 
through the same ceremony of kissing the King's 
hand. Then the King had a Levee in the Great 
Hall, which lasted till n, when their Majesties, 
etc. walked through the Court of the Palace to the 
Cathedral, to attend divine Service and a Sermon. 
The Apparitor General, 2 Sextons, 2 Virgers, and 
8 Beadsmen, walked before the King (as on great 
occasions they usually do before the Bishop) ; the 
Lord in waiting (Earl of Oxford) on the King's 
right hand, and the Bishop in his lawn on the left. 
After the King, came the Queen and Princesses, 

a most deserving, though unfortunate part of our Order. This 
gracious notice and countenance of us at such a moment, shews, 
as your whole life has invariably done, your zealous concern for 
the interests of Religion, and the credit of its Ministers. And we 
trust, Sir, that we entertain a due sense of this goodness ; and 
that we shall never be wanting in the most dutiful attachment 
to your Majesty's sacred person, to your august house, and to 
your mild and beneficent government. 

' In our daily celebration of the sacred offices, committed to 
our charge, we make it our fervent prayer to Almighty God, that 
He will be pleased to take your Majesty into his special protection ; 
and that your Majesty may live long, very long, in health and 
honour, to be the blessing and the delight of all your people.' 

(The above is the substance, and I believe the words, of my 
address to the King at Worcester, 6th August 1788.) 

To this address his Majesty was pleased to return an answer, 
very gracious, personally, to the Bishop himself, and expressive 
of the highest regard for the Clergy of the Established Church. 

R. W. 



attended by the Countesses of Pembroke and 1788 

Harcourt (Ladies of the Bed-chamber), and the 
Countess of Courtown, and the rest of their Suite. 
At the entrance of the Cathedral, their Majesties 
were received by the Dean and Chapter in their 
Surplices and hoods, and conducted to the foot 
of the stairs leading to their seat in a Gallery pre 
pared and richly furnished by the Stewards c for 
their use, at the bottom of the Church near the 
West window. 

Thesame ceremony was observed the two follow 
ing days, on which they heared sacred musick, but 
without prayers or a sermon. On the last day 
August 8th, the King was pleased to give 200 to 
the charity : and in the evening attended a concert 
in the College Hall for the benefit of the Stewards. 

On Saturday morning, August 9th, the King and Aug. 9 

Queen, etc. returned to Cheltenham. 

During their Majesties' stay at the Palace, they 
attended prayers in the Chapel of the Palace 
every morning (except the first, when the service 
was performed in the Church) which were read by 
the Bishop. 

The King at parting was pleased to put into my 
hands for the poor of the City 50, and the Queen 
50 more ; which I desired the Mayor (Mr. Davis) 
to see distributed amongst them in a proper 

The King also left 300 in my hands towards 
releasing the Debtors in the County and City Jails. 

During the three days at Worcester, the con 
course of people of all ranks was immense, and the 

c Edward Foley, Esq., Member of Parliament for the County, 
and William Langford, D.D., late Prebendary of Worcester. 



joy universal. The weather was uncommonly fine. 1788 

And no accident of any kind interrupted the 
mutual satisfaction, which was given, and received, 
on this occasion. 

On Saturday, August 16, the King and Royal Aug. 16 

Family left Cheltenham, and returned that even 
ing to Windsor. 

In the beginning of November following, the Nov. i 

King was seized with that illness, which was so 
lamented. It continued till the end of February 1789 

1789, when his Majesty happily recovered. Feb. 28 

Soon after I had his Majesty's command to 
attend him at Kew ; and on March 15, I ad- Mar. 15 

ministered the Sacrament to his Majesty at 
Windsor in the Chapel of the Castle, as also on 
Easter Sunday, April 12, and preached both days. April 12 

At the Sacrament of March 15, the King was 
attended only by three or four of his Gentlemen : 
On Easter-day, the Queen, Princess Royal, and 
Princesses Augusta and Elizabeth, with several 
Lords and Gentlemen and Ladies of the Court, 
attended the King to the Chapel, and received the 
Sacrament with him. 

On April 23 (St. George's Day) a public thanks- April 23 

giving for the King's recovery was appointed. His 
Majesty, the Queen, and Royal Family, with the 
two Houses of Parliament, etc. went in procession 
to St. Paul's. The Bishop of London preached. ' 

I was not well enough to be there. 

May 28, 1790, the Duke of Montagu died. He 1790 

was a nobleman of singular worth and virtue ; of May 28 

an exemplary life 5 and of the best principles in 
Church and State. As Governor to the Prince of 
Wales and Prince Frederick, he was very attentive 
to his charge, and executed that trust with great 



propriety and dignity. The Preceptor was 1790 
honoured with his confidence : and there never 
was the least misunderstanding between them ; 
or so much as a difference of opinion as to the 
manner in which the education of the Princes 
should be conducted. 

In October 1790, I had the honour to receive 
from the King the present of two fine full-length 
pictures of his Majesty and the Queen, copied from 
those at the Queen's House, St. James's Park, 
painted by the late Mr. Gainsborough. 

These pictures are put up in the great Drawing- 
room at the Palace in Worcester, and betwixt 
them, over the fire-place, is fixed an oval tablet 
of white marble with the following Inscription in 
Gold Letters. 

.' Hospes, 
Imagines, quas contemplaris, 

Augustorum Principum, 
Georgii III, et Charlottae Conjugis, 

Rex ipse 

Richardo Episcopo Vigorniensi 


My younger Brother, Mr. Thomas Kurd, of 1791 
Birmingham, died on Saturday, September 17, Sept. 17 

My elder Brother, Mr. John Kurd, of Hatton, 1792 
near Shifnal, died on Thursday, December 6, Dec. 6 

My noble and honoured friend, the Earl of 1793 
Mansfield, died March 20, 1793. March 20 

My old and much esteemed friend, Dr. Balguy, 1795 
Prebendary and Archdeacon of Winchester, died Jan. 19 
January 19, 1795. 



The Life of Bishop Warburton, which was sent 
to the press in Autumn last, was not printed off 
till the end of January, nor published till towards 1795 
the end of February this year. Feb. 24 

Printed in the course of this year at the Kidder 
minster press a Collection of Bishop Warburton's 
Letters to me, to be published after my death for 
the benefit of the Worcester Infirmary. The 
edition consisted of 250 Copies, 4to was finished 
at the press in the beginning of December. Dec. i 

In the Summer of 1796 visited my Diocese in 1796 
person, I have great reason to suppose for the June 
last time ; being in the 77th year of my age fiat 17 to 30 
voluntas Dei ! 

Mrs. Stafford Smith, late Mrs. Warburton, died 
at Fladbury, September i, 1796. Sept. i 

Mr. Mason died at Aston, April 5, 1797. He 1797 
was one of my oldest and most respected friends. April 5th 
How few of this description now remain ! 

By God's great mercy enter this day (24th 1799 
January 1799) into my Both year. Ps. xc. 10. Jan. 24 
But see, i Cor. xv. 22. Rom. viii. j8. i Pet. i. 3-5. 
X<*pis r<p 6eo> eVt ri; dj/e/cStifyj/ra) avrov 8a>ptq. 
2 Cor. ix. 15. 

It pleased God that I was able this Summer to May 27 to 
confirm over all parts of my Diocese. June 14 

And to visit my Diocese in person once more 1800 
in June 1800. L.D. June 6 to 17 

Lost my old and worthy friend Dr. Heberden, 1801 
in the gist or 92nd year of his age, May 16, 1801. May 16 

Consecrated, on Tuesday the i $th of June, 1 802, 1 802 
the new Church and Churchyard of Lower Eating- June 1 5 
ton, near Shipston, in Warwickshire. 

My most deserving, unhappy, friend, Dr. 
William Arnald, died at Leicester, August 5, 1802, Aug. 5 


Visited my Diocese by Commission Commis- 1803 
sioners, Dr. Arnold, my Chancellor, and Dr. Evans, May 3 1 to 
Archdeacon. June 3 

St. James' day, July 25, 1804, held an Ordina- 1804 
tion in Hartlebury Chapel 3 Deacons, 5 Priests July 25 
the last I can expect to undertake. 

Confirmations by the Bishop of Chester (Dr. 1805 
Majendie). March 27, Stratford. March 27 

28, Bromsgrove. 28 

29, Hales Owen. 29 
by the Bishop of Hereford (Dr. Cornwall). 

June 14, Worcester. June 14 

15, Pershore. 15 

17, Kidderminster 17 

Visited my Diocese this year by Commission 1806 


The Chancellor and Archdeacon. 
Warwick .... May 26. 
Worcester .... 28. 

Kidderminster . . 30. 

Pershore .... 31. 

1 807, September 26. The Prince of Wales visited 1 807 
Lady Downshire, at Ombersley Court this month. 

I was too infirm to wait upon him either at 

Ombersley or Worcester j but his Royal Highness 

was pleased to call at Hartlebury, on Saturday 

the 26th of this month, attended by his brother Sept. 26 

the Duke of Sussex, and Lord Lake, and staid with 

me above an hour. 

1808, April 23. Granted a Commission to the 1808 
Bishop of Chester, (Dr. Majendie), to consecrate 

the new Chapel and burying-ground at Red-Ditch, 
in the parish of Tardebig; which was performed this 
day, Thursday, April 21, 1808, the proper officers 
of the Court, and two of my Chaplains attending. 


" To this short narrative (the last paragraph of which was 
written by the author only five weeks before his death) 
little more will be added. 

So late as the first Sunday in February before his death, 
though then declining in health and strength, he was able 
to attend his Parish Church, and to receive the Sacrament. 
.Free from any painful or acute disorder, he gradually 
became weaker, but his faculties continued perfect. After 
a few days' confinement to his bed, he expired in his sleep 
on Saturday morning, May 28, 1808, having completed four 
months beyond his eighty-eighth year. He was buried 
in Hartlebury churchyard, according to his own directions. 

He had been Bishop of Worcester for almost twenty- 
seven years ; a longer period than any Bishop of that See 
since the Reformation." 


O N T H E 

, Golden Age of Queen Elifabeth: 


and Mr. ADDISON. 


A View of KENELWORTH CASTLE, in the Year 17 id. 

Relliquias vetemmque vides monimenta virorum. 


Facsimile of the title-page of t\n Third Dialogue 
from the edition of 

HJEC GENERA VIRTUTUM non solum in moribus nostris, sed 
vix jam in libris reperiuntur : Chartae quoque, quae illam 
pristinam severitatem continebant, obsoleverunt. 




On the Age of Queen ELIZABETH. 


IT happened, in the summer of the year 1716, that 
Dr. ARBUTHNOT and Mr. ADDISON had occasion to 
take a journey together into Warwickshire. Mr. DIGBY, 
who had received intelligence of their motions, and was 
then at Coles bill, contrived to give them the meeting 
at Warwick ; where they intended to pass a day or 
two, in visiting the curiosities of that fine town, and 
the more remarkable of those remains of antiquity that 
are to be seen in its neighbourhood. These were 
matter of high entertainment to all of them ; to 
Dr. ARBUTHNOT, for the pleasure of recollecting the 
ancient times ; to Mr. ADDISON, on account of some 
political reflexions, he was fond of indulging on such 
occasions ; and to Mr. DIGBY, from an ingenuous 
curiosity, and the love of seeing and observing whatever 
was most remarkable, whether in the past ages, or the 

AMONGST other things that amused them, they were 
much taken with the great church at Warwick. They 
entertained themselves with the several histories, which 



it's many old monuments recalled to their memory [/]. 
The famous inscription of Sir FULK GREVIL occasioned 
some reflexions ; especially to Mr. DIGBY, who had 
used to be much affected with the fame and fortunes 
of the accomplished Sir PHILIP SIDNEY. The glory of 
the house of WARWICK was, also, an ample field of 
meditation. But what chanced to take their attention 
most, was the monument of the great earl of LEICESTER. 
It recorded his titles at full length, and was, besides, 
richly decorated with sculpture, displaying the various 
ensigns and trophies of his greatness. The pride of 
this minister had never appeared to them so con 
spicuous, as in the legends and ornaments of his tomb 
stone ; which had not only outlived his family, but 
seemed to assure itself of immortality, by taking refuge, 
as it were, at the foot of the altar. 

THESE funeral honours engaged them in some 
common reflexions on the folly of such expedients to 
perpetuate human grandeur ; but at the same time, 
as is the usual effect of these things, struck their 
imaginations very strongly. They readily apprehended 
what must have been the state of this mighty favourite 
in his lifetime, from what they saw of it in this proud 
memorial, which continued in a manner to insult 
posterity so many years after his death. But under 
standing that the fragments at least of his supreme 
glory, when it was flourishing at its height, were still 

[/] For the account of these Monuments, and of Kenelworth- 
Castle, see the plans and descriptions of DUGDALE. 



to be seen at KENELWORTH, which they knew could be 
at no great distance, they resolved to visit them the 
next day, and indulge to the utmost the several 
reflexions which such scenes are apt to inspire. On 
inquiry, they found it was not more than five or six 
miles to the castle ; so that, by starting early in the 
morning, they might easily return to dinner at Warwick. 
They kept to their appointment so well, that they got 
to Kenelworth in good time, and had even two or three 
hours on their hands to spend, in taking an exact view 
of the place. 

It was luckily one of those fine days, which our 
travellers would most have wished for, and which 
indeed are most agreeable in this season. It was clear 
enough to afford a distinct prospect of the country, 
and to set the objects, they wanted to take a view of, 
in a good light ; and yet was so conveniently clouded 
as to check the heat of the sun, and make the exercise of 
walking, of which they were likely to have a good deal, 
perfectly easy to them. 

WHEN they alighted from the coach, the first object 
that presented itself was the principal GATE- WAY of 
the Castle. It had been converted into a farm-house, 
and was indeed the only part of these vast ruins that 
was inhabited. On their entrance into the inner-court, 
they were struck with the sight of many mouldering 
towers, which preserved a sort of magnificence even 
in their ruins. They amused themselves with observ 


ing the vast compass of the whole, with marking the 
uses, and tracing the dimensions, of the several parts. 
All which it was easy for them to do, by the very dis 
tinct traces that remained of them, and especially by 
means of DUGDALE'S plans and descriptions, which they 
had taken care to consult. 

AFTER rambling about for some time, they clam 
bered up a heap of ruins, which lay on the west side 
the court : and thence came to a broken tower, which, 
when they had mounted some steps, led them out into 
a path-way on the tops of the walls . From this eminence 
they had a very distinct view of the several parts they 
had before contemplated ; of the gardens on the north- 
side ; of the winding meadow that encompassed the 
walls of the castle, on the west and south ; and had, 
besides, the command of the country round about 
them for many miles. The prospect of so many 
antique towers falling into rubbish, contrasted to 
the various beauties of the landscape, struck them 
with admiration, and kept them silent for some 

AT length recovering himself, I perceive, said 
Dr. ARBUTHNOT, we are all of us not a little affected 
with the sight of these ruins. They even create 
a melancholy in me ; and yet a melancholy of so- 
delightful a kind, that I would not exchange it, me- 
thinks, for any brisker sensation. The experience of 
this effect hath often led me to inquire, how it is that 



the mind, even while it laments, finds so great a pleasure 
in visiting these scenes of desolation. Is it, continued 
he, from the pure love of antiquity, and the amusing 
train of reflexions into which such remains of ancient 
magnificence naturally lead us ? 

I KNOW not, returned Mr. ADDISON, what pain it 
may give you to contemplate these triumphs of time 
and fortune. For my part, I am not sensible of the 
mixt sensation you speak of. I feel a pleasure indeed ; 
but it is sincere, and, as I conceive, may be easily 
accounted for. 'Tis nothing more, I believe, than 
a fiction of the imagination, which makes me think" 
I am taking a revenge on the once prosperous and 
overshadowing height, PR^UMBRANS FASTI GIUM, as 
somebody expresses it, of inordinate Greatness. It is 
certain, continued he, this theatre of a great states 
man's pride, the delight of many of our princes, and 
which boasts of having given entertainment to one of 
them in a manner so splendid, as to claim a remem 
brance, even in the annals of our country, would now, 
in its present state, administer ample matter for much 
insulting reflection. 

" WHERE, one might ask, are the tilts and tourna 
ments, the princely shows and sports, which were once 
so proudly celebrated within these walls ? Where are 
the pageants, the studied devices and emblems of 
curious invention, that set the court at a gaze, and 
even transported the high soul of our ELIZABETH ? 



Where now, pursued he, (pointing to that which was 
formerly a canal, but at present is only a meadow with 
a small rivulet running through it) where is the floating 
island, the blaze of torches that eclipsed the day, the 
lady of the lake, the silken nymphs her attendants, 
with all the other fantastic exhibitions surpassing even 
the whimsies of the wildest romance ? What now is 
become of the revelry of feasting ? of the minstrelsy, 
that took the ear so delightfully as it babbled along the 
valley, or floated on the surface of this lake ? See there 
the smokeless kitchens, stretching to a length that 
might give room for the sacrifice of a hecatomb ; the 
vaulted hall, which mirth and jollity have set so often 
in an uproar ; the rooms of state, and the presence- 
chamber : what are they now but void and tenantless 
ruins, clasped with ivy, open to wind and weather, and 
representing to the eye nothing but the ribs and car 
case, as it were, of their former state ? And see, said 
he, that proud gate-way, once the mansion of a surly 
porter [g], who, partaking of the pride of his lord, made 


[g] The speaker's idea of Lord LEICESTER'S porter agrees with 
the character he sustained on the queen's reception at Kenelworth ; 
as we find it described in a paper of good authority written at 
that time. " Here a PORTER, tall of person, big of limbs, stark 
of countenance with club and keys of quantity according ; in 
a rough speech, full of passion in metre, while the cjueen came 
within his ward, burst out in a great pang of impatience to see 
such uncouth trudging to and fro, such riding in and out, with 
such din and noise of talk, within his charge ; whereof he never 
saw the like, nor had any warning once, ne yet could make to 
himself any cause of the matter. At last, upon better view and 
advertisement, he proclaims open gates and free passage to all ; 



the crowds wait, and refused admittance, perhaps, to 
nobles whom fear or interest drew to these walls, to 
pay their homage to their master : see it now the 
residence of a poor tenant, who turns the key but to let 
himself out to his daily labour, to admit him to a short 
meal, and secure his nightly slumbers. Yet, in this 
humble state, it hath had the fortune to outlive the 
glory of the rest, and hath even drawn to itself the 
whole of that little note and credit which time hath 
continued to this once pompous building. For, while 
the castle itself is crumbled into shapeless ruins, and 
is prophaned, as we there see, by the vilest uses, this 
outwork of greatness is left entire, sheltered and closed 
in from bird and beast, and even affords some decent 
room in which the human face divine is not ashamed 
to shew itself." 

WHILE Mr. ADDISON went on in this vein, his two 
friends stood looking on each other ; as not conceiving 
what might be the cause of his expressing himself with 
a vehemence, so uncommon, and not suited to his 
natural temper. When the fit was over, I confess, said 
Dr. ARBUTHNOT, this is no bad topic for a moralist to 
declaim upon. And, though it be a trite one, we know 
how capable it is of being adorned by him who, on 

yields over his club, his keys, his office and all, and on his knees 
humbly prays pardon of his ignorance and impatience. Which 
her highness graciously granting, &c." 

A letter from an attendant in court to his friend a citizen and 
merchant of London. From the court, at Worcester, 20 
August 1575. 

a late 


a late occasion, could meditate so finely on the TOMBS 
AT WESTMINSTER [hi]. But surely, proceeded he, you 
warm yourself in this contemplation, beyond what the 
subject requires of you. The vanity of human great 
ness is seen in so many instances, that I wonder to hear 
you harangue on this with so peculiar an exultation. 
There is no travelling ten miles together in any part 
of the kingdom without stumbling on some ruin, which, 
though perhaps not so considerable as this before us, 
would furnish occasion, however, for the same reflexions. 
There would be no end of moralizing over every broken 
tower, or shattered fabric, which calls to mind the 
short-lived glories of our ancestors. 

TRUE, said Mr. ADDISON ; and, if the short con 
tinuance of these glories were the only circumstance, 
I might well have spared the exultation, you speak of, 
in this triumph over the shattered remnants of Kenel- 
wortb. But there is something else that fires me on the 
occasion. It brings to mind the fraud, the rapine, the 
insolence, of the potent minister, who vainly thought 
to immortalize his ill-gotten glory by this proud 
monument. Nay, further, it awakens an indignation 
against the prosperous tyranny of those wretched times, 
and creates a generous pleasure in reflecting on the 
happiness we enjoy under a juster and more equal 
government. Believe me, I never see the remains of 
that greatness which arose in the past ages on the ruins 
of public freedom and private property, but I con- 
[b] In the first volume of the SPECTATOR. 



gratulate with myself on living at a time, when the 
meanest subject is as free and independent as those 
royal minions ; and when his property, whatever it be, 
is as secure from oppression, as that of the first minister. 
And I own this congratulation is not the less sincere 
for considering that the instance before us is taken 
from the reign of the virgin queen, which it hath been 
the fashion to cry up above that of any other of our 
princes [{]. I desire no other confutation of so strange 
unthankful a preference, than the sight of this vast 
castle, together with the recollection of those means 
by which its master arrived at his enormous greatness. 

YOUR indignation then, replied Dr. ARBUTHNOT, is 
not so much of the moral, as political kind []. But is 
not the conclusion a little too hasty, when, from the 
instance of one over-grown favourite, you infer the 
general infelicity of the time, in which he flourished ? 
I am not, I assure you, one of those unthankful men 
who forget the blessings they enjoy under a prince of 
more justice and moderation than queen ELIZABETH, 
and under a better constitution of government than 

[*] The factious use, that was afterwards made of this humour 
of magnifying the character of ELIZABETH, may be seen in the 
Craftsman and Remarks on the History of England. 

[*] What the political character of Mr. ADDISON was, may be 
seen from his Whig-examiner. This amiable man was keen and 
even caustic on subjects, where his party, that is, civil liberty, 
was concerned. Nor let it be any objection to the character I make 
him sustain in this Dialogue, that he treats ELIZABETH'S govern 
ment with respect in the Freeholder. He had then the people to 
cajole, who were taught to reverence her memory. He is, here, 
addressing himself, in private, to his friends. 



prevailed in the days of our forefathers. Yet, setting 
aside some particular dishonours of that reign (of which, 
let the tyranny of Leicester, if you will, be one), I see not 
but the acknowledged virtues of that princess, and the 
wisdom of her government, may be a proper foundation 
for all the honours that posterity have ever paid to her. 

WERE I even disposed to agree with you, returned 
Mr. ADDISON, I should not have the less reason for 
triumphing, as I do, on the present state of our govern 
ment. For, if such abuses could creep in, and be 
suffered for so many years under so great a princess, 
what was there not to fear (as what, indeed, did not 
the subject actually feel) under some of her successors ? 
But, to speak my mind frankly, I see no sufficient ' 
grounds for the excessive prejudice, that hath somehow 
taken place, in favour of the GOLDEN REIGN, as it is 
called, OF ELIZABETH. I find neither the wisdom, nor 
the virtue in it, that can entitle it to a preference before 
all other ages. 

ON the contrary, said Dr. ARBUTHNOT, I never 
contemplate the monuments of that time, without 
a silent admiration of the virtues that adorned it. 
Heroes and sages crowd in upon my memory. Nay, 
the very people were of a character above what we are ' 
acquainted with in our days. I could almost fancy, the 
soil itself wore another face, and, as you poets imagine 
on some occasions, that our ancestors lived under a 
brighter sun and happier climate than we can boast of. 



To be sure ! said Mr. ADDISON smiling : or, why not 
affirm, in the proper language of romance, that the 
women of those days were all chaste, and the men 
valiant ? But cannot you suspect at least that there is 
some enchantment in the case, and that your love of 
antiquity may possibly operate in more instances than 
those of your favourite Greeks and Romans ? Tell me 
honestly, pursued he, hath not this distance of a cen 
tury and half a little imposed upon you ? Do not these 
broken towers, which moved you just now to so com 
passionate a lamentation over them, dispose you to 
a greater fondness for the times in which they arose, 
than can be fairly justified ? 

I WILL not deny, returned Dr. ARBUTHNOT, but we 
are often very generous to the past times, and unjust 
enough to the present. But I think there is little of 
this illusion in the case before us. And, since you call 
my attention to these noble ruins, let me own to you, 
that they do indeed excite in me a veneration for the 
times of which they present so striking a memorial. But 
surely not without reason. For there is scarce an 
object in view, that doth not revive the memory of 
some distinguishing character of that age, which may 
justify such veneration. 

ALAS ! interrupted Mr. ADDISON, and what can 
these objects call to mind but the memory of barbarous 
manners and a despotic government ? 



FOR the government, replied Dr. ARBUTHNOT, I do 
not well conceive how any conclusion about that can 
be drawn from this fabric. The MANNERS I was think 
ing of ; and I see them strongly expressed in many 
parts of it. But whether barbarous or not, I could 
almost take upon me to dispute with you. And why, 
indeed, since you allowed yourself to declaim on the 
vices, so apparent, as you suppose, in this monument 
of antiquity, may not I have leave to consider it in 
another point of view, and present to you the virtues 
which, to my eye at least, are full as discernible? 

You cannot, continued he, turn your eyes on any 
part of these ruins, without encountering some me 
morial of the virtue, industry, or ingenuity, of our 

LOOK there, said he, on that fine room (pointing to* 
the HALL, that lay just beneath them) ; and tell me 
if you can help respecting the HOSPITALITY which so 
much distinguished the palaces of the great in those 
simpler ages. You gave an invidious turn to this cir 
cumstance, when you chose to consider it only in the 
light of wasteful expence and prodigality. But no 
virtue is privileged from an ill name. And, on second 
thoughts, I persuade myself, it will appear you have 
injured this, by so uncandid an appellation. Can it 
deserve this censure, that the lord of this princely castle 
threw open his doors and spread his table for the 




reception of his friends, his followers, and even for the 
royal entertainment of his sovereign ? Is any expence 
more proper than that which tends to concilitate [/] 
friendships, spread the interests of society, and knit 
mankind together by a generous communication in 
these advantages of wealth and fortune ? The arts of 
a refined sequestered luxury were then unknown. The 
same bell, that called the great man to his table, invited 
the neighbourhood all around, and proclaimed a holiday 
to the whole country [ni]. Who does not feel the 
decorum, and understand the benefits of this magnifi 
cence ? The pre-eminence of rank and fortune was 
nobly sustained : the subordination of society pre 
served : and yet the envy, that is so apt to attend the 
great, happily avoided. Hence the weight and influ 
ence of the old nobility, who engaged the love, as w r ell 
as commanded the veneration, of the people. In the 
mean time, rural industry flourished : private luxury 

[/] LUCIAN expresses this use of the Table, prettily *IAIA2 
ME2ITHN TPAIIEZAN, "Epwres c. 27. 

[m] Besides this sort of hospitality, there was another still more 
noble and disinterested, which distinguished the early times, 
especially the purer ages of chivalry. It was customary, it seems, 
for the great lords to fix up HELMETS on the roofs and battlements 
of their castles as a signal of hospitality to all adventurers and 
noble passengers. " Adoncques etoit une coustume en la Grant 
Bretagne (says the author of the old romance, called PERCE- 
FOREST) et fut tant que charite regna illecque, tous gentils hommes 
et nobles dames f aisoient mettre au plus hault de leur hostel ung 
heaulme, en SIGNE que tous gentils hommes et gentilles femmes 
trespassans les chemins, entrassent hardyement en leur hostel 
comme en leur propre ; car leurs biens estoient davantage a tous 
nobles hommes et femmes trespassans le royaulme." Vol. iii. 
fol. 103. 

824*31 D Was 


was discouraged : and in both ways that frugal sim 
plicity of life, our country's grace and ornament in 
those days, was preserved and promoted. 

IT would spoil your panegyric, I doubt, said Mr. 
ADDISON, to observe the factious use, that was made of 
this magnificence, and the tendency it had to support 
the pride and insolence of the old nobility. The 
interest of the great, I am afraid, was but another name 
for the slavery of the people []. 

I SEE it, Dr. ARBUTHNOT said, in a different light ; and 
so did our princes themselves, who could not but be 
well acquainted with the proper effects of that interest. 
They considered the weight of the nobility, as a 
counterpoise to their own sovereignty. It was on this 
account they had used all means to lessen their influence. 
But the consequence was beside their expectation. 
The authority of the crown fell with it : and, which 
was still less expected by political men, the liberty of 
the people, after it had wantoned for a time, sunk 

[n] This is not said without authority : " Give me leave, says 
' one, to hold this paradox, that the English were never more 
' idle, never more ignorant in manual arts, never more factious 
' in following the parties of princes or their landlords, never 
' more base (as I may say) trencher slaves, than in that age, 
' wherein great men kept open houses for all comers and goers : 
' and that in our age, wherein we have better learned each man 
' to live of his own, and great men keep not such troops of idle 
' servants, not only the English are become very industrious 
' and skilful in manual arts, but also the tyranny of lords and 
' gentlemen is abated, whereby they nourished private dissen- 
' sions and civil wars, with the destruction of the common 
* people." FYNES MORYSON'S Itinerary, Part III. Ch. v. 



under the general oppression. It was then discovered, 
but a little of the latest, that public freedom throve 
best, when it wound itself about the stock of the 
ancient nobility. In truth, it was the defect, not the 
excess, of patrician influence, that made way for the 
miseries of the next century. 

You see then it is not without cause that I lay 
a stress, even in a political view, on this popular 
hospitality of the great in the former ages [o]. 

BUT, lest you think I sit too long at the table, let us go 
on to the TILTYARD, which lies just before us; that school 
of fortitude and honour to our generous forefathers. 
A younger fancy, than mine, would be apt to kindle at 
the sight. And our sprightlier friend here, I dare say, 
has already taken fire at the remembrance of the gallant 
exercises, which were celebrated in that quarter. 

MR. DIGBY owned, he had a secret veneration for the 
manly games of that time, which he had seen so 
triumphantly set forth in the old poets and romancers. 

[o] Dr. ARBUTHNOT, too, has his authority. A famous politician 
of the last century expresseth himself to much the same purpose, 
after his manner : " Henceforth, says he, [that is, after the 
statutes against retainers in HEN. VII's reign] the country 
lives, and great tables of the nobility, which no longer nourished 
veins that would bleed for them, were fruitless and loathsome 
till they changed the air, and of princes became courtiers ; where 
their revenues, never to have been exhausted by beef and mutton, 
were found narrow ; whence followed racking of rents, and, at 
length, sale of lands." SIR JAMES HARRINGTON'S OCEANA, p. 40. 
Lond. 1656. 



RIGHT, said Mr. ADDISON ; it is precisely in that 
circumstance that the enchantment consists. Some 
of our best wits have taken a deal of idle pains to 
ennoble a very barbarous entertainment, and recom 
mend it to us under the specious name of gallantry 
and honour. But Mr. DIGBY sees through the cheat. 
Not that I doubt, continued he, but the doctor, now 
he is in the vein of panegyric, will lay a mighty stress 
on these barbar[t]ities ; and perhaps compare them with 
the exercises in the Roman Circus, or the Olympic 

AND why not ? interrupted Dr. ARBUTHNOT. The 
tendency of all three was the same ; to invigorate the 
faculties both of mind and body ; to give strength, 
grace, and dexterity, to the limbs ; and fire the mind 
with a generous emulation of the manly and martial 

WHY truly, said Mr. ADDISON, I shall not deny that 
all three, as you observe, were much of the same merit. 
And, now your hand is in for this sort of encomium, do 
not forget to celebrate the sublime taste of our fore 
fathers for bear-baiting [/], as well as tilting ; and tell 


[p] True it is, that this divertisement of bear-baiting was not 
altogether unknown in the age of ELIZABETH, and, as it seemeth, 
not much misliked of master STOW himself, who hath very 
graphically described it. He is speaking of the Danish em- 
bassador's reception and entertainment at Greenwich in 1586. 



us too, how gloriously the mob of those days, as well 
as their betters, used to belabour one another. 

I CONFESS, said Dr. ARBUTHNOT, the softness of our 
manners makes it difficult to speak on this subject 
without incurring the ridicule, you appear so willing 
to employ against me. But you must not think to 
discredit these gymnastics by a little raillery, which 
has its foundation only in modern prejudices. For it 
is no secret that the gravest and politest men of 
antiquity were of my mind. You will hardly suspect 
PLATO of incivility, either in his notions or manners. 
And need I remind you how much he insists on the 
gymnastic discipline ; without which he could not 
have formed, or at least have supported, his republic ? 

" As the better sort, saith he, had their convenient disports, so 
were not the ordinary people excluded from competent pleasure. 
For, upon a green, very spacious and large, where thousands 
might stand and behold with good contentment, their BEAR- 
BAITING and bull-baiting (tempered with other merry disports) 
were exhibited ; whereat it cannot be spoken of what pleasure the 
people took. 

For it was a sport alone, of these beasts, continueth the 
historian, to see the bear with his pink-eyes leering after his 
enemies ; the nimbleness and wait of the dog to take his advan 
tage ; and the force and experience of the bear again to avoid 
the assaults ; if he were bitten in one place, how he would pinch 
in another to get free ; and if he were once taken, then what 
shift with biting, clawing, roaring, tugging, grasping, tumbling, 
and tossing, he would work to wind himself away ; and, when he 
was loose, to shake his ears with the blood and slaver about his 
phisnomy, was a pittance of good relief. The like pastime also 
of the bull. And now the day being far spent, and the sun 
in his declination, the embassador withdrew to his lodging by 
barge to CROSBY'S place ; where, no doubt, THIS DAY'S SOLEMNITY 



IT was upon this principle, I suppose then, said 
Mr. DIGBY, or perhaps in imitation of his Grecian 
master, that our MILTON laid so great a stress on this 
discipline in his TRACTATE OF EDUCATION. And before 
him, in the very time you speak of, ASCHAM, I observe, 
took no small pains to much the same purpose in his 

IT is very clear, resumed Dr. ARBUTHNOT, from 
these instances, and many more that might be given, 
that the ancients were not singular in their notions 
on this subject. But, since you have drawn me into 
a grave defence of these exercises, let me further own 
to you that I think the Gothic Tilts and Tournaments 
exceeded, both in use and elegance, even the Grecian 
gymnastics \_q\. They were a more direct image of war, 
than any of the games at Olympia. And if Xenopkon 
could be so lavish in his praises on the Persian practice 
of hunting, because it had some resemblance to the 
exercise of arms, what would he not have said 
of an institution, which has all the forms of a real 
combat ? 

BUT there was an elegance, too, in the conduct of the 
tournament, that might reconcile it even to modern 
delicacy. For, besides the splendor of the shew ; the 
dexterity, with which these exercises were performed ; 
and the fancy, that appeared in their accoutrement, 
dresses, and devices ; the whole contest was ennobled 

[q] See the Anacbarsis of LUCIAN. 



with an air of gallantry, that must have had a great 
effect in refining the manners of the combatants. And 
yet this gallantry had no ill influence on morals ; 
for, as you insulted me just now, it was the odd 
humour of those days for the women to pride them 
selves in their chastity [r], as well as the men in their 

IN short, I consider the Tournay, as the best school 
of civility as well as heroism. " High-erected thoughts, 
seated in a heart of courtesy," as an old writer [/] well 
expresses it, was the proper character of such as had 
been trained in this discipline. 

No wonder then, pursued he, the poets and romance- 
writers took so much pains to immortalize these trials 
of manhood. It was but what PINDAR and HOMER him- 

[r] If the reader be complaisant enough to admit the fact, 
it may be accounted for, on the ideas of chivalry, in the following 
manner. The knight forfeited all pretensions to the favour of the 
ladies, if he failed, in any degree, in the point of valour. And, 
reciprocally, the claim which the ladies had to protection and 
courtesy from the order of knights, was founded singly in the 
reputation of chastity, which was the female point of honour. 
" Ce droit que les dames avoient sur la chevalerie (says M. DE 
LA CURNE DE STE PALAYE) devoit ctre conditionel ; il supposoit 
que leur conduite et leur reputation ne les rendoient point indignes 
de 1'espece d'association qui les unissoit a cet ordre uniquement 
fonde sur 1'honneur. 

Par celle voye (says an old French writer, the chevalier DE LA 
TOUR, about the year 1371) les bonnes se craignoient et se tenoient 
plus fermes de faire chose dont elles peussent perdre leur honneur 
et leur etat. Si vouldroye que celui temps fust revenu, car je 
pense qu'il n'en seroit pas tant de blasmees comme il est a present. 




self, those ancient masters of romance, had done before 
them. And how could it be otherwise ? The shew 
itself, as I said, had something very taking in it ; whilst 
every graceful attitude of person, with every generous 
movement of the mind, afforded the finest materials 
for description. And I am even ready to believe, that 
what we hear censured in their writings, as false, 
incredible, and fantastic, was frequently but a just 
copy of life, and that there was more of truth and 
reality [t] in their representations, than we are apt to 
imagine. Their notions of honour and gallantry were 
carried to an elevation [], which, in these degenerate' 


JYJ What is hinted, here, of the reality of these representations, 
hath been lately shewn at large in a learned memoir on this 
suj(b)ect, which the reader will find in the xx th Tom. of HIST. DE 

[u] This represen(ta)tion of things in the ages of chivalry agrees 
with what we are told by the author of the memoir just quoted : 
" Les premieres lemons," [says he, speaking of the manner in which 
the youth were educated in the houses of the Great, which were 
properly the schools of those times] " qu'on leur donnoit, regar- 
doient principalement V amour de Dieu^ et des dames, e'est-a-dire, 
la religion, et la galanterie. Mais autant la devotion qu'on leur 
inspiroit etoit accompagnee de puerilites et de superstitions, 
autant 1'amour des dames, qu'on leur recommandoit, etoit il 
rempli de RAFFINEMENT et de FANATISME. II semble qu'on ne 
pouvoit, dans ces siecles ignorans et grossiers, presenter aux 
hommes la religion sous une forme assez materielle pour la mettre 
a leur portee ; ni leur donner, en meme terns, une idee de 1'amour 
assez pure, assez metaphysique, pour prevenir les desordres et les 
exces, dont etoit capable une nation qui conservoit par-tout le 
caractere impetueux qu'elle montroit a la guerre." Tom. xx. 
p. 600. 

One sees then the origin of that furious gallantry which runs 
through the old romances. And so long as the refinement and 
fanaticism^ which the writer speaks of, were kept in full vigour 



days, hurts the credit of their story ; just as I have met 
with men that have doubted whether the virtues of the 
REGULI and the SCIPIOS of ancient fame were not the 
offspring of pure fancy. 

NAY now, Dr. ARBUTHNOT, said Mr. ADDISON, you 
grow quite extravagant. What you, who are used to 
be so quick at espying all abuses in science, and defects 
in good taste, turn advocate for these fopperies ! 

by the force of institution and the fashion of the times, the morals 
of these enamoured knights might, for any thing I know, be as 
pure as their apologist represents them. At the same time it 
must be confessed that this discipline was of a nature very likely 
to relax itself under another state of things, and certainly to be 
misconstrued by those who should come to look upon these 
pictures of a refined and, spiritual passion, as incredible and 
fantastic. And hence, no doubt, we are to account for that censure 
which a famous writer, and one of the ornaments of ELIZABETH'S 
own age, passeth on the old books of chivalry. His expression is 
downright, and somewhat coarse. " In our fathers time nothing 
was read but books of chivalry, wherein a man by reading should 
be led to none other end, but only to manslaughter and baudrye. 
If any man suppose they were good enough to pass the time withall, 
he is deceived. For surely vain words do work no small thing in 
vain, ignorant, and young minds, especially if they be given any 
thing thereunto of their own nature." He adds, like a good 
Protestant, " These books, as I have heard say, were made the 
most part in abbayes and monasteries; a very likely and fit fruit 
of such an idle and blind kind of living." Prcef. to ASCHAM'S 

I thought it but just to set down this censure of Mr. ASCHAM 
over-against the candid representation of the French memorialist. 
However, what is said of the influence, which this ancient 
institution had on the character of his countrymen, is not to 
be disputed. " Les preceptes d'amour repandoient dans le com 
merce des dames ces considerations et ces egards respectueuxt 
qui, n'ayant jamais etc effaces de 1'esprit des Francois, on, 
toujours fait un des caracteres distinctifs de notre nation." 



Mr. DIGBY and I shall begin to think you banter us, 
in this apology for the ancient gymnastics, and are 
only preparing a chapter for the facetious memoirs [w], 
you sometimes promise us. 

NEVER more in earnest, I assure you, replied the 
doctor. I know what you have to object to these 
pictures of life and manners. But, if they will not bear 
examining as copies, they may deserve to be imitated 
as models. And their use, methinks, might atone for 
some defects in the article of probability. 

FOR my part, I consider the legends of ancient 
chivalry in a very serious light, 

As niches, fill'd with statues to invite 
Young valours forth [x] 

as BEN JONSON, a valorous hardy poet, and who, himself, 
would have made a good knight-errant, justly says of 
them. For, it is certain, they had this effect. The 
youth, in general, were fired with the love of martial 
exercises. They were early formed to habits of fatigue 
and enterprise. And, together with this warlike spirit, 
the profession of chivalry was favourable to every other 
virtue. Affability, courtesy, generosity, veracity, these 
were the qualifications most pretended to by the men 
of arms, in the days of pure and uncorrupted chivalry. 
We do not perhaps, ourselves, know, at this distance of - 

[w] Of SCRIBLERUS. See the vi th chapter of that learned work 
On the ancient Gymnastics. 

[x] MASQUES, p. 181. WHALEY'S edition. 



time, how much we are indebted to the force of this 
singular institution. But this I may presume to say, 
that the men, among whom it arose and flourished most, 
had prodigious obligations to it. No policy, even of 
an ancient legislator, could have contrived a better 
expedient to cultivate the manners and tame the spirits 
of a rude and ignorant people. I could almost fancy 
it providentially introduced among the northern na 
tions, to break the fierceness of their natures, and 
prevent that brutal savageness and ferocity of character, 
which must otherwise have grown upon them in the 
darker ages. 

NAY, the generous sentiments, it inspired, perhaps 
contributed very much to awaken an emulation of 
a different kind ; and to bring on those days of light 
and knowledge which have disposed us, somewhat 
unthankfully, to vilify and defame it. This is certain, 
that the first essays of wit and poetry, those harbingers 
of returning day to every species of good letters, were 
made in the bosom of chivalry, and amidst the assem 
blies of noble dames, and courteous knights. And we 
may even observe, that the best of our modern princes, 
such as have been most admired for their personal 
virtues, and have been most concerned in restoring all 
the arts of civility and politeness, have been passionately 
addicted to the feats of ancient prowess. In the num 
ber of these, need I remind you of the courts of 
FRANCIS I, and HENRY IV, to say nothing of our own 
EDWARDS and HENRYS, and that mirrour of all their 



virtues in one, our renowned and almost romantic 

[y] This romantic spirit of the Queen may be seen as well in 
her amours, as military achievements. " Ambiri, coli ob for- 
mam, et AMORIBUS, etiam inclinata jam etate, videri voluit; 
de FABULOSIS INSULIS per illam relaxationem renovata quasi 
AMORES, foeditate omni prohibita, generose per VIRTUTEM exerce- 
bant." THUANI Hist. torn. vi. p. 172. 

The observation of the great historian is confirmed by FRANCIS 
OSBORNE, Esq. who, speaking of a contrivance of the Cecilian 
party to ruin the earl of ESSEX, by giving him a rival in the good 
graces of the queen, observes " But the whole result concluding 
in a duel, did rather inflame than abate the former account she 
made of him : the opinion of a CHAMPION being more splendid 
(in the weak and romantic sense of women, that admit of nothing 
fit to be made the object of a quarrel but themselves) and far 
above that of a captain or general. So as Sir EDMUND CARY, 
brother to the Lord HUNSDON, then chamberlain and near 
kinsman to the Queen, told me, that though she chid them 
both, nothing pleased her better than a conceit she had that 
her beauty was the subject of this quarrel, when, God knows, 
it grew from the stock of honour, of which then they were very 
tender." MEM. OF Q. ELIZABETH, p. 456. 

But nothing shews the romantic disposition of the Queen, 
and indeed of her times, more evidently than the TRIUMPH, as 
it was called ; devised and performed with great solemnity, 
in honour of the French commissioners in 1581. The contrivance 
was for four of her principal courtiers, under the quaint appella 
tion of " four foster-chidren of DESIRE," to besiege and carry, 
by dint of arms, " THE FORTRESS OF BEAUTY ; " intending, by 
this courtly senigma, nothing less than the queen's majesty's 
own person. The actors in this famous triumph were, the Earl 
of ARUNDEL, the Lord WINDSOR, Master PHILIP SIDNEY, and 
Master FULK GREVIL." And the whole was conducted so entirely 
in the spirit and language of knight errantry, that nothing in 
the Arcadia itself is more romantic. See the account at large 
in STOW'S continuation of HOLINSHED'S Chronicles, p. 1316 1321. 

To see the drift and propriety of this triumph, it is to be 
observedthat the business whichbrought theFrencb commissioners 
into England was, the great affair of the queen's marriage with the 
duke of ALANCON. 



BUT you think I push the argument too far. And 
less than this may dispose you to conceive with rever 
ence of the scene before us, which must ever be 
regarded as a nursery of brave men, a very seed-plot 
of warriors and heroes. I consider the successes at 
the barriers as preludes to future conquests in the 
field. And, as whimsical a figure as a young tilter may 
make in your eye, who will say that the virtue was not 
formed here, that triumphed at AXELL, and bled at 

WE shall very readily, replied Mr. ADDISON, acknow 
ledge the bravery and other virtues of the young hero, 
whose fortunes you hint at. He was, in truth, to speak 
the language of that time, the very flower of knighthood, 
and contributed more than any body else, by his pen, 
as well as sword, to throw a lustre on the profession of 
chivalry. But the thing itself, however adorned by 
his wit and recommended by his manners, was bar 
barous ; the offspring of Gothic fierceness ; and shews 
the times, which favoured it so much, to have scarcely 
emerged from their original rudeness and brutality. 
You may celebrate, as loudly as you please, the deeds 
of these wonder-working knights. Alas, what affinity 
have such prodigies to our life and manners ? The old 
poet, you quoted just now with approbation, shall 
tell us the difference : 

These were bold stories of our Arthur's age: 
But here are other acts, another stage 



And scene appears 5 it is not since as then ; 

No giants, dwarfs, or monsters here, but MEN [z]. 

OR, if you want a higher authority, we should 
not, methinks, on such an occasion, forget the 
admirable CERVANTES, whose ridicule hath brought 
eternal dishonour on the profession of knight- 

WITH your leave, interrupted Dr. ARBUTHNOT, 
I have reason to except against both your authorities. 
At best, they do but condemn the abuses of chivalry, 
and the madness of continuing the old romantic spirit 
in times when, from a change of manners and policy, 
it was no longer in season. Adventures, we will say, 
were of course to cease, when giants and monsters 
disappeared. And yet have they totally disappeared, 
and have giants and monsters been no where heard 
of out of the castles and forests of our old romancers ? 
? Tis odds, methinks, but, in the sense of ELIZABETH'S 
good subjects, PHILIP II might be a giant at least ; 
and, without a little of this adventurous spirit, it may 
be a question whether all her enchanters, I mean her 
BURLEIGHS and WALSINGHAMS, would have proved 
a match for him. I mention this the rather to shew 
you, how little obligation his countrymen have to your 
CERVANTES for laughing away the remains of that 
prowess, which was the best support of the Spanish 

[z] Speeches at Prince HENRY'S barriers. 



As if, said Mr. ADDISON, the prowess of any people 
were only to be kept alive by their running mad. But 
let the case of the Spaniards be what it will, surely we, 
of this country, have little obligation to the spirit of 
chivalry, if it were only that it produced, or encouraged 
at least, and hath now entailed upon us, the curse of 
duelling ; which even yet domineers in the fashionable 
world, in spite of all that wit, and reason, and religion 
itself, have done to subdue it. 'Tis true, at present 
this law of arms is appealed to only in the case of some 
high point of nice and mysterious honour. But in the 
happier days you celebrate, it was called in aid, on 
common occasions. Even questions of right and 
property, you know, were determined at 1 the barriers [a]: 
and brute force was allowed the most equitable, as well 
as shortest, way of deciding all disputes both concerning 
a man's estate and honour. 

You might observe too, interposed Dr. ARBUTHNOT, 
that this was the way in which those fiercer disputes 
concerning a mistress, or a kingdom, were frequently 
decided. And, if this sort of decision, in such cases, 
were still in use among Christian princes, you might 

[ l ar 1788]. 

[a] There was an instance of this kind, and perhaps the latest 
upon record in our history, in the 13 th year of the queen, when 
" a combat was appointed to have been fought for a certain 
manor, and demain lands belonging thereto, in Kent." The 
matter was compromised in the end. But not till after the 
usual forms had been observed, by the two parties : of which 
we have a curious and circumstantial detail in HolinshecTs 
Chronicles, p. 1225. 



call it perhaps a barbarous custom : but would it be 
ever the worse, do you think, for their good subjects ? 

PERHAPS it would not, returned Mr. ADDISON, in 
some instances. And yet will you affirm, that those 
good subjects were in any enviable situation, under their 
fighting masters ? After all, allowing you to put the 
best construction you can on these usages of our fore 

" all we find 

Is, that they did their work and din'd." 

And though such feats may argue a sound athletic 
constitution, you must excuse me, if I am not forward 
to entertain any high notions of their civility. 

THEIR civility, said Dr. ARBUTHNOT, is another 
consideration. The HALL and TILT-YARD are certainlyx 
good proofs of what they are alleged for, the hospitality 
and bravery of our ancestors. But it hath not been 
maintained, that these were their only virtues. On the 
contrary, it seems to me, that every flower of humanity^" 
every elegance of art and genius, was cultivated 
amongst them. For an instance, need we look any 
further than the LAKE, which in the flourishing times 
of this castle was so famous, and which we even now 
trace in the winding-bed of that fine meadow ? 

I DO not understand you, replied Mr. ADDISON. 
I can easily imagine what an embellishment that lake 
must have been to the castle ; but am at a loss to con 


ceive what flowers of wit and ingenuity, to use your 
own aenigmatical language, could be raised or so much 
as watered by it. 

AND have you then, returned Dr. ARBUTHNOT, so soon 
forgotten the large description, you gave us just now, 
of the shows and pageants displayed on this lake ? And 
can any thing better declare the art, invention, and 
ingenuity, of their conductors ? Is not this canal as 
good a memorial of the ardour and success with which 
the finer exercises of the mind were pursued in that 
time, as the tilt-yard, we have now left, is of the 
address and dexterity shewn in those of the body ? 

I REMEMBER, said Mr. ADDISON, that many of the 
shows, intended for the queen's entertainment at this 
place, were exhibited on that canal. But as to any 
art or beauty of contrivance 

" You see none, I suppose." 

WHY truly none, resumed Mr. ADDISON. To me they 
seemed but well enough suited to the other barbarities 
of the time. " The Lady of the Lake and her train of 
Nereids," was not that the principal ? And can it pass 
for any thing better than a jumble of Gothic romance 
and pagan fable ? a barbarous modern conceit, var 
nished over with a little classical pedantry ? 

AND is that the best word you can afford, said 

Dr. ARBUTHNOT, to these ingenious devices ? The 

824-si E business 


business was, to welcome the Queen to this palace, and 
at the same time to celebrate the honours of her 
government. And what more decent way of compli 
menting a great Prince, than through the veil of 
fiction ? Or what so elegant way of entertaining 
a learned Prince, as by working up that fiction out of 
the old poetical story ? And if something of the 
Gothic romance adhered to these classical fictions, it 
was not for any barbarous pleasure, that was taken in 
this patchwork, but that the artist found means to 
incorporate them with the highest grace and ingenuity. 
For what, in other words, was the Lady of the Lake 
(the particular that gives most offence to your delicacy), 
but the presiding nymph of the stream, on which these 
shews were presented ? And, if the contrivance was to 
give us this nymph under a name that romance had 
made familiar, what was this but taking advantage of 
a popular prejudice to introduce his fiction with more 
address and probability ? 

BUT see the propriety of the scene itself, for the 
designer's purpose, and the exact decorum with whichT 
these fanciful personages were brought in upon it. It 
was not enough, that the pagan deities were summoned 
to pay their homage to the queen. They were the 
deities of the fount and ocean, the watery nymphs and 
demi-gods : and these were to play their part in their 
own element. Could any preparation be more artful 
for the panegyric designed on the naval glory of that 
reign ? Or, could any representation be more grateful 



to the queen of the ocean, as ELIZABETH was then called, 
than such as expressed her sovereignty in those regions ? 
Hence the sea-green Nereids, the Tritons, and Neptune 
himself, were the proper actors in the drama. And the 
opportunity of this spacious lake gave the easiest intro 
duction and most natural appearance to the whole 
scenery. Let me add, too, in further commendation 
of the taste which was shewn in these agreeable fancies, 
that the attributes and dresses of the deities themselves 
were studied with care ; and the most learned poets 
of the time employed to make them speak and act in 
character. So that an old Greek or Roman might have 
applauded the contrivance, and have almost fancied 
himself assisting at a religious ceremony in his own 

AND, to shew you that all this propriety was intended 
by the designer himself, and not imagined at pleasure 
by his encomiast ; I remember, that when, some years 
after, the earl of HERTFORD had the honour to receive 
the queen at his seat in Hampshire, because he had no 
such canal as this in readiness on the occasion, he set 
on a vast number of hands to hollow a bason in his 
park for that purpose. With so great diligence and so 
exact a decorum were these entertainments conducted ! 

DID not I tell you, interposed Mr. ADDISON, address 
ing himself to Mr. DIGBY, to what an extravagance 
the doctor's admiration of the ancient times would 
carry him ? Could you have expected all this harangue 
E 2 on 


on the art, elegance, and decorum of THE PRINCELY 
PLEASURES OF KEN EL WORTH [b] ? And must not it 
divert you to see the unformed genius of that age 
tricked out in the graces of Roman or even Attic 
politeness ? 

MR. DIGBY acknowledged, it was very generous in 
the doctor to represent in so fair a light the amuse 
ments of the ruder ages. But I was thinking, said he, 
to what cause it could possibly be owing, that these 
pagan fancies had acquired so general a consideration 
in the days of ELIZABETH. 

THE general passion for these fancies, returned 
Dr. ARBUTHNOT, was a natural consequence of the 
revival of learning. The first books, that came into 
vogue, were the poets. And nothing could be more 
amusing to rude minds, just opening to a taste of letters, 
than the fabulous story of the pagan gods, which is 
constantly interwoven in every piece of antient poetry. 
Hence the imitative arts of sculpture, painting, and 
poetry, were immediately employed in these pagan 
exhibitions. But this was not all. The first artists in 
every kind were of Italy ; and it was but natural for 
them to act these fables over again on the very spot 
that had first produced them. These too were the 
masters to the rest of Europe. So that fashion con- 

[b] Alluding to a tract, so called, by GASCOIGNE, an attendant 
on the court, and poet of that time, who hath given us a narrative 
of the entertainments that passed on this occasion at Kenelwortb. 



curred with the other prejudices of the time, to 
recommend this practice to the learned. 

FROM the men of art and literature the enthusiasm 
spread itself to the great ; whose supreme delight it 
was to see the wonders of the old poetical story brought 
forth, and realized, as it were, before them [c\. And 
what, in truth, could they do better ? For, if I were not 
a little afraid of your raillery, I should desire to know 
what courtly amusements even of our time are com 
parable to the shows and masques, which were the 
delight and improvement of the court of ELIZABETH. 

[c] Hence then it is that a celebrated dramatic writer of those 
days represents the entertainment of MASKS and SHOWS, as the 
highest indulgence that could be provided for a luxurious and 
happy monarch. His words are these ; 

" Music and poetry are his delight. 
Therefore I'll have Italian masques by night, 
Sweet speeches, comedies, and pleasing shows 
And in the day, when he shall walk abroad, 
Like SYLVAN NYMPHS, my pages shall be clad : 
My men, like SATYRS, grazing on the lawns, 
Shall with their goat-feet dance the antic hay : 
Sometimes a lovely boy in DIAN'S shape, 
With hair, that gilds the water as it glides, 
Crownets of pearls about his naked arms, 
And in his sportful hands an olive-tree, 
Shall bathe him in a spring, and there hard-by 
One like ACTION, peeping through the grove, 
Shall by the angry Goddess be transform' d 
Such things as these best please his Majesty." 

MARLOW'S Edward II. 

And how exactly this dramatist painted the humour of the 
times, we may see from the entertainment provided, not many 
years after, for the reception of King JAMES at Althorp in North 
amptonshire j where this very design of Sylvan Nympbs y Satyrs, 
and ACTION, was executed in a masque by B. JONSON. 

I say, 


I say, the improvement ; for, besides that these shows 
were not in the number of the IN ERUDITE VQLUPTATES, 
so justly characterized and condemned by a wise 
antient, they were even highly useful and instructive. 
These devices, composed out of the poetical history, 
were not only the vehicles of compliment to the great 
on certain solemn occasions, but of the soundest moral 
lessons, which were artfully thrown in, and recom 
mended to them by the charm of poetry and numbers. 
Nay, some of these masques were moral dramas in 
form, where the virtues and vices were impersonated. 
We know the cast of their composition by what we 
see of these fictions in the next reign ; and have reason 
to conceive of them with reverence when we find the 
names of FLETCHER and JONSON [d] to. some of them. 
I say nothing of JONES and LAWES, though all the 
elegance of their respective arts was called in to assist 
the poet in the contrivance and execution of these 

AND, now the poets have fallen in my way, let 
further observe, that the manifest superiority of this 
class of writers in ELIZABETH'S reign, and that of her 
successor, over all others who have succeeded to them, 
is, among other reasons, to be ascribed to the taste 
which then prevailed for these moral representations. 

[d\ Whom his friend Mr. SELDEN characterized* in this manner, 

" Omnia carmina doctus 
Et calles mythwi/ plasmata et histo.riam." 

TIT. OF HON. p. 466. 



This taught them to animate and impersonate every 
thing. Rude minds, you will say, naturally give into 
this practice. Without doubt. But art and genius 
do not disdain to cultivate and improve it. Hence it is, 
that we find in the phraseology and mode of thinking 
of that time, and of that time only, the essence of the 
truest and sublimest poetry. 

WITHOUT doubt, Mr. ADDISON said, the poetry of 
that time is of a better taste than could well have been 
expected from its barbarism in other instances. But 
such prodigies as SHAKESPEAR and SPENSER would do 
great things in any age, and under every disadvantage. 

MOST certainly they would, returned Dr. ARBUTH- 
NOT, but not the things that you admire so much in 
these immortal writers. And, if you will excuse the 
intermixture of a little philosophy in these ramblings, 
I will attempt to account for it. 

THERE is, I think, in the revolutions of taste and-' 
language, a certain point, which is more favourable to 
the purposes of poetry, than any other. It may be 
difficult to fix this point with exactness. But we shall 
hardly mistake in supposing it lies somewhere between * 
the rude essays of uncorrected fancy, on the one hand, 
and the refinements of reason and science, on the other. 

AND such appears to have been the condition of our-' 
language in the age of ELIZABETH. It was pure, strong, 



and perspicuous, without affectation. At the same 
time, the high figurative manner, which fits a language 
so peculiarly for the uses of the poet, had not yet been 
controlled by the prosaic genius of philosophy and 
logic. Indeed, this character had been struck so 
deeply into the English tongue, that it was not to be 
removed by any ordinary improvements in either : 
the reason of which might be, the delight which was 
taken by the English very early in their old MYSTERIES 
and MORALITIES ; and the continuance of the same 
spirit in succeeding times, by means of their MASQUES 
and TRIUMPHS. And something like this, I observe, 
attended the progress of the Greek and Roman poetry ; 
which was the truest poetry, on the clown's maxim in 
SHAKESPEAR, because it was the most feigning [e\. It 
had its rise, you know, like ours, from religion : and 
pagan religion, of all others, was the properest to 
introduce and encourage a spirit of allegory and moral 
fiction. Hence we easily account for the allegoric cast 
of their old dramas, which have a great resemblance 
to our ancient moralities. NECESSITY is brought in as 
a 'person of the drama, in one of ^ESCHYLUS'S plays ; and 
DEATH in one of EURIPIDES : to say nothing of many 
shadowy persons in the comedies of ARISTOPHANES. 
The truth is, the pagan religion deified every thing, 
and delivered these deities into the hand of their 

[e] Sacrifices, says PLUTARCH, without choruses and without 
music, we have known : but for poetry, without fable and without 
fiction, we know of no such thing. Gv<rias d^opovs KOI dvavXovs 
i<rp.fv' OVK lo-ficv Se afj.v6ov ovdf etyfuSi} TTOITJO-IV. De aud. poet, 
vol. i. p. 1 6. 



painters, sculptors, and poets. In like manner, Christian 
superstition, or, if you will, modern barbarism, imper 
sonated every thing ; and these persons, in proper form, 
subsisted for some time on the stage, and almost to our 
days, in the masques. Hence the picturesque style of- 
our old poetry ; which looks so fanciful in SPENSER, 
and which SHAKESPEAR'S genius hath carried to the 
utmost sublimity. 

I WILL not deny, said Mr. ADDISON, but there may 
be something in this deduction of the causes, by which 
you account for the strength and grandeur of the 
English poetry, unpolished as it still was in the hands 
of ELIZABETH'S great poets. But for the masques 

You forget, I believe, one, interrupted Dr. ARBUTH- 
NOT, which does your favourite poet, MILTON, almost 
as much honour, as his Paradise Lost. But I have no 
mind to engage in a further vindication of these fancies. 
I only conclude that the taste of the age, the state of 
letters, the genius of the English tongue, was such as 
gave a manliness to their compositions of all sorts, and 
even an elegance to those of the lighter forms, which 
we might do well to emulate, and not deride, in this 
aera of politeness. 

BUT I am aware, as you say, I have been transported 
too far. My design was only to hint to you, in oppo 
sition to your invective against the memory of the old 



times, awakened in us by the sight of this castle, that 
what you object to is capable of a much fairer inter 
pretation. You have a proof of it, in two or three 
instances ; in their festivals, their exercises, and their 
poetical fictions : or, to express myself in the classical 
forms, you have seen by this view of their CONVIVIAL,--' 
GYMNASTIC, and MUSICAL character, that the times of 
ELIZABETH may pass for golden, notwithstanding what 
a fondness for this age of baser metal may incline us to 
represent it. 

IN the mean time, these smaller matters have drawn 
me aside from my main purpose. What surprised me 
most, pursued he, was to hear you speak so slightly, 
I would not call it by a worse name, of the GOVERNMENT 
of ELIZABETH. Of the manners and tastes of different 
ages, different persons, according to their views of things 
will judge very differently. But plain facts speak so 
strongly in favour of the policy of that reign, and the 
superior talents of the sovereign, that I could not but 
take it for the wantonness of opposition in you to 
espouse the contrary opinion. And, now I am warmed 
by this slight skirmish, I am even bold enough to dare 
you to a defence of it ; if, indeed, you were serious in 
advancing that strange paradox. At least, I could 
wish to hear upon what grounds you would justify so 
severe an attack on the reverend administration of 
that reign, supported by the wisdom of such men as 
CECIL and WALSINGHAM, under the direction of so 
accomplished a princess as our ELIZABETH. Your 



manner of defending even the wrong side of the 
question will, at least, be entertaining. And, I think, 
I may answer for our young friend, that his curiosity 
will lead him to join me in this request to you. 

MR. ADDISON said, He did not expect to be called 
to so severe an account of what had escaped him on 
this subject. But, though I was ever so willing, con 
tinued he, to oblige you, this is no time or place for 
entering on such a controversy. We have not yet 
compleated the round of these buildings. And I would 
fain, methinks, make the circuit of that pleasant^ 
meadow. Besides its having been once, in another 
form, the scene of those shows you described so 
largely to us, it will deserve to be visited for the sake 
of the many fine views which, as we wind along it, we 
may promise to ourselves of these ruins. 

You forget my bad legs, said Dr. ARBUTHNOT smiling ; 
otherwise, I suppose, we can neither of us have any 
dislike to your proposal. But, as you please : let us 
descend from these heights. We may resume the con 
versation, as we walk along : and especially, as you 
propose, when we get down into that valley. 

Facsimile of Title-page of the First Edition (black and red) 


O N 




Guarda, che mal fato, 
O giovenil vaghezza non ti mem 
Al magazine de le cl ancle, ah fuggi, 
Fuggi quell incantato alloggiamento. 
Qui'vi habitan le maghe, che mcantando 
Fan traveder^ e traudir ciafcuno. 

T A s s o. 


Printed for A. MILLAR, in the Strand-, and 
Cambridge. M . Dcc> LXIL 

Facsimile of Title-page of the Edition nf 1788 


O N 




Serving to illuftrate fome 

Paffages in the THIRD DIALOGUE. 

Guarda 3 che mat fato 
O gio'venil vagheiga non ti meni 
^fl maga^no de la. ciancie, a 
Fuggi quell incantato alloggiamento. 
Qurvi habitan le maghe, che incantande 
Fan travfder, e traudir ciafcuno. 


Facsimile of the List of Contents from the Edition 0/1788 


Letter i. CT*HE Subject fro-posed. 
ii . Origin of Chivalry. 

in. Characteristics of, accounted for. 
iv. Heroic and Gothic manners, corn- 

v. Their differences, noted. 
vi. Gothic manners more poetical, than 

the Heroic. 

vn. Their effect on SPENSER, MIL 

vin. Fairy Queen criticized the me 
thod of that poem explained and 

ix. TASSO'S Gier. Lib. considered- 
history of the Italian poetry 
x. Fairy way of writing vindicated. 
xi. Gothic poetry, whence fallen into 

xn. Steps of its decline, traced. 




O N 



THE ages, we call barbarous, present us with 
many a subject of curious speculation. 
What, for instance, is more remarkable than 
the Gothic CHIVALRY ? or than the spirit of ROMANCE, 
which took its rise from that singular institution ? 

Nothing in human nature, my dear friend, is without 
its reasons. The modes and fashions of different times 
may appear, at first sight, fantastic and unaccountable. 
But they, who look nearly into them, discover some 
latent cause of their production. 

" Nature once known, no prodigies remain," 



as sings our philosophical bard ; but to come at this 
knowledge, is the difficulty. Sometimes a close atten 
tion to the workings of the human mind is sufficient 
to lead us to it : Sometimes more than that, the dili 
gent observation of what passes without us, is necessary. 

This last I take to be the case here. The prodigies, 
we are now contemplating, had their origin in the 
barbarous ages. Why then, says the fastidious modern, 
look any farther for the reason ? Why not resolve them 
at once into the usual caprice and absurdity of bar 
barians ? 

This, you see, is a short and commodious philosophy. 
Yet barbarians have their own y such as it is, if they are 
not enlightened by our reason. Shall we then condemn 
them unheard, or will it not be fair to let them have 
the telling of their own story ? 

Would we know, from what causes the institution of 
Chivalry was derived ? The time of its birth, the 
situation of the barbarians, amongst whom it arose, 
must be considered : their wants, designs, and policies 
must be explored : We must inquire when, and where, 
and how it came to pass that the western world became 
familiarized to this Prodigy, which we now start at. 

Another thing is full as remarkable, and concerns us 
more nearly. The spirit of Chivalry, was a fire which 
soon spent itself : But that of Romance, which was 



kindled at it, burnt long, and continued its light and 
heat even to the politer ages. 

The greatest geniuses of our own and foreign 
countries, such as Ariosto and Tasso in Italy, and 
Spenser and Milton in England, were seduced by 
these barbarities of their forefathers ; were even 
charmed by the Gothic Romances. Was this caprice and 
absurdity in them ? Or, may there not be something 
in the Gothic Romance peculiarly suited to the views 
of a genius, and to the ends of poetry ? And may not 
the philosophic moderns have gone too far, in their 
perpetual ridicule and contempt of it ? 

To form a judgment in the case, the rise, progress, 
and genius of Gothic Chivalry must be explained. 

The circumstances in the Gothic fictions and 
manners, which are proper to the ends of poetry (if 
any such there be) must be pointed out. 

Reasons, for the decline and rejection of the Gothic 
taste in later times must be given. 

You have in these particulars both the SUBJECT, and 
the PLAN of the following Letters. 




ILook upon Chivalry, as on some mighty River, 
which the fablings of the poets have made 
immortal. It may have sprung up amidst rude rocks, 
and blind deserts. But the noise and rapidity of its 
course, the extent of country it adorns, and the towns 
and palaces it ennobles, may lead a traveller out of his 
way and invite him to take a view of those dark caverns, 

unde superne 
Plurimus Eridani per sylvam volvitur amnis. 

I enter, without more words, on the subject I began 
to open to you in my last Letter. 

The old inhabitants of these North- West parts of 
Europe were extremely given to the love and exercise 
of arms. The feats of Charlemagne and our Arthur, 
in particular, were so famous as in later times, when 
books of Chivalry were composed, to afford a principal 
subject to the writers of them. 1 

1 Author's note in edition of 1788: See a discourse at the 
end of Love's Labour Lost in Warb. Ed. of Shakespear ; in which 
the origin, subject, and character of these books of Chivalry (or 
Romances, properly so called) are explained with an exactness 
of learning, and penetration, peculiar to that writer 
In tenui labor, at tenuis non gloria 



But CHIVALRY, properly so called, and under the 
idea " of a distinct military order, conferred in the way 
" of investiture, and accompanied with the solemnity 
"of an oath and other ceremonies, as described in 
" the old historians and romancers," was of later date, 
and seems to have sprung immediately out of the 

The FIRST and most sensible effect of this consti 
tution, which brought about so mighty a change in 
the policies of Europe, was the erection of a prodigious 
number of petty tyrannies. For, though the great 
barons were closely tied to the service of their Prince 
by the conditions of their tenure, yet the power which 
was given them by it over their own numerous vassals 
was so great, that, in effect, they all set up for them 
selves ; affected an independency ; and were, in truth, 
a sort of absolute Sovereigns, at least with regard to 
one another. Hence, their mutual aims and interests 
often interfering, the feudal state was, in a good degree, 
a state of war : the feudal chiefs were in frequent 
enmity with each other ; the several combinations of 
feudal tenants were so many separate armies under 
their head or chief : and their castles were so many 
fortresses, as well as palaces, of these puny princes. 

In this state of things one sees, that all imaginable 

encouragement was to be given to the use of arms, 

under every different form of attack and defence, 

F 2 according 


according as the safety of these different communities, 
or the ambition of their leaders, might require. And 
this condition of the times, I suppose, gave rise to that 
military institution, which we know by the name of 

FURTHER, there being little or no security to be had 
amidst so many restless spirits and the clashing views 
of a neighbouring numerous and independent nobility, 
the military discipline of their followers, even in the 
intervals of peace, was not to be relaxed, and their 
ardour suffered to grow cool by a total disuse of martial 
exercises. And hence the proper origin of JUSTS and 
TURNAMENTS ; those images of war, which were kept 
up in the castles of the barons and, by an useful policy, 
converted into the amusement of the knights, when 
their arms were employed on no serious occasion 

I call this the proper origin of Justs and Turnaments ; 
for the date of them is carried no higher, as far as I can 
find even in France (where unquestionably they made 
their first appearance) than the year 1066 ; which was 
not till after the introduction of the feudal govern 
ment into that country. Soon after, indeed, we find 
them in England and in Germany ; but not till the 
feudal policy had spread itself in those parts and had 
prepared the way for them. 

You see, then, my notion is, that Chivalry was no 
absurd and freakish institution, but the natural and 



even sober effect of the feudal policy ; whose turbulent 
genius breathed nothing but war, and was fierce and 
military even in its amusements. 

I leave you to revolve this idea in your own mind. 
You will find, I believe, a reasonable foundation for it 
in the history of the feudal times, and in the spirit of 
the feudal government. 


IF the conjecture, I advanced, of the rise of Chivalry, 
from the circumstances of the feudal government, be 
thought reasonable, it will now be easy to account 
for the several CHARACTERISTICS of this singular pro 

I. " The passion for arms ; the spirit of enterprize ; 
" the honour of knighthood ; the rewards of valour ; 
" the splendour of equipages ; " in_short, every thing 
that raises our ideas of the prowess, gallantry, and 
magnificence of these sons of Mars is naturally and 
easily explained on this supposition. 

Ambition, interest, glory all concurred, under such 
circumstances, to produce these effects. The feudal 
principles could terminate in nothing else. And when, 
by the necessary operation of that policy, this turn 



was given to the thoughts and passions of men, use 
and fashion would do the rest ; and carry them to all 
the excesses of military fanaticism, which are painted 
so strongly, but scarcely exaggerated l in the old 

[For instance, one of the strangest circumstances in 
those books, and which looks most like a mere extrava 
gance of the imagination, is that of the women-warriors, 
with which they all abound. Butler in his Hudibras, 
who saw it in this light, ridicules it, as a most unnatural 
idea, with great spirit. Yet in this representation they 
did but copy from the manners of the times. Anna 
Comnena tells us, in the life of her father, that the 
wife of Robert the Norman fought side by side with 
her husband, in his battles ; that she would rally the 
flying soldiers, and lead them back to the charge : And 
Nicetas observes that, in the time of Manuel Comnena, 
there were in one Crusade many women, armed like 
men, and on horseback. 

What think you now of Tasso's Clorinda, whose 
prodigies of valour I dare say you have often laughed 
at ? Or, rather, what think you of that constant pair, 

" Gildippe, & Odoardo amanti e sposi, 
" In valor d'arme, e in lealta famosi ? " 

C. iii. S. 40.] * 

1 exaggerated, 

* The paragraphs within brackets were not reprinted in this 
place in the edition of 1788. But compare Appendix H, 
pp. 169-170 

" Their 


II. " Their romantic ideas of justice ; their passion 
" for adventures ; their eagerness to run to the succour 
" of the distressed; and the pride they took in redressing 
" wrongs, and removing grievances ; " All these dis 
tinguishing characters of genuine Chivalry are ex 
plained on the same principle. For, the feudal state 
being a state of war, or rather of almost perpetual 
violence, rapine, and plunder, it was unavoidable that, 
in their constant skirmishes, stratagems, and surprizes, 
numbers of the tenants or followers of one Baron 
should be seized upon and carried away by the fol 
lowers of another : And the interest, ^ach_had to 
protect his own, would of course introduce the point of 
nonoufm attempting by all means not only to retaliate 
on the enemy, but to l rescue the captive sufferers out 
of the hands of their oppressors. 

It would be meritorious, in the highest degree, to 
fly to their assistance, when they knew where they 
were to be come at ; or to seek them out with diligence, 
when they did not. This last service they called, 2 
Going in quest of adventures which at first, no doubt, 
was confined to those of their own party, but after 
wards, by the habit of acting on this principle, would 
be extended much farther. 3 So that, in process of 
time, we find the Knights errant, as they were now 

1 and, especially to 

2 This last feudal service soon introduced what may be truly 
called romantic, the s further 



properly styled, wandering the world over in search of 
occasions on which to exercise their generous and 
disinterested valour, 1 

Ecco quei, che le charte empion di sogni, 
Lancilotto, Tristano, e gli altri erranti. 

III. " The courtesy, affability, and gallantry, for 
" which these adventurers were so famous, are but the 
" natural effects and consequences of their situation." 

For the castles of the Barons were, as I said, the courts 
of these little sovereigns, as well as their fortresses; 
and the resort of their vassals thither, in honour of their 
chiefs, and for their own proper security, would make 
that civility and politeness, which is seen in courts and 
insensibly prevails there, a predominant part in the 
character of these assemblies. 

This is the poet's own account of 

court and royal citadel, 

The great school-maistresse of all Courtesy. 

B. III. C. vi. St. i. 

And again, more largely in B. vi. c. i. s. i. 

Of Court it seems men Courtesie doe call, 
For that it there most useth to abound ; 

1 valour, indifferently to friends and enemies in distress ; 



And well beseemeth that in Princes hall 
That Virtue should be plentifully found, 
Which of all goodly manners is the ground 
And roote of civil conversation : 

Right so in faery court it did resound, 
Where courteous knights and ladies most did won 
Of all on earth, and made a matchless paragon. 

For Faery Court means the reign of Chivalry ; which, 
it seems, had undergone a fatal revolution before the 
age of Milton, who tells us that Courtesy 

is sooner found in lonely sheds 

With smoaky rafters, than in tap'stry halls 
And courts of princes, where it first was nam'd, 
And yet is most pretended. MASK. 

Further, The free commerce of the ladies, in those 
knots and circles of the great, would operate so far on 
the sturdiest knights as to give birth to the attentions 
of gallantry. But this gallantry would take a refined 
turn, not only from the necessity there was of maintain 
ing the strict forms of decorum, amidst a promiscuous 
conversation under the eye of the Prince and in his 
own family ; but also from the inflamed sense they 
must needs have of the frequent outrages committed, 
by their neighbouring clans of adversaries, on the 
honour of the Sex, when by chance of war they had 
fallen into their hands. Violations of chastity being 
the most atrocious crimes they had to charge on their 
enemies, they would pride themselves in the glory of 
being its protectors : And as this virtue was, of all 



others, the fairest and strongest claim of the sex itself 
to such protection, it is no wonder that the notions of 
it were, in time, carried to so platonic an elevation. 

Thus, again, the great master of Chivalry himself, 
on this subject, 

It hath been thro' all ages ever seen, 

That, with the praise of arms and chivalry, 
The prize of beauty still hath joined been ; 

And that for reason's special privity : 
For either doth on other much rely ; 

For HE mee seems most fit the fair to serve, 
That can her best defend from villany ; 

And SHE most fit his service doth deserve, 
That fairest is, and from her faith will never swerve. 

SPENSER B. iv. c. v. 

Not but the foundation of this refined gallantry was 
laid in the antient manners of the German nations. 
Caesar tells us how far they carried their practice of 
chastity, which he seems willing to account for on 
political principles. However that be, their con 
sideration of the sex was prodigious, as we see in the 
history of their irruptions into the Empire ; where, 
among all their ravages and devastations of other sorts, 
we find they religiously abstained from offering any 
violence to the honour of the women. 

iv. It only remains to account for that " character 
" of Religion," which was so deeply imprinted on the 
minds of all knights and was essential to their institu 


tion. We are even told, that the love of God and of the 
Ladies went hand in hand, in the duties and ritual of 

Two reasons may be assigned for this singularity, 

First, the superstition of the Times, in which 
Chivalry arose ; which was so great that no institution 
of a public nature could have found credit in the world, 
that was not consecrated by the Churchmen, and 
closely interwoven with religion. 

Secondly, the condition of the Christian world ; * 
which had been harrassed by long wars, and had 
but just recovered a breathing-time from the brutal 
ravages of the Saracen armies. The remembrance of 
what they had lately suffered from these grand enemies 
of the faith, made it natural and even necessary 2 to 
engage a new military order on the side of religion. 

And how warmly this principle, a zeal for the faith , 
was acted upon by the professors of Chivalry, and how 
deeply it entered into their ideas of the military 
Character, we see from the term so constantly used 
by the old Romancers, of RECREANT S Knight ; by which 
they meant to express, with the utmost force, their 
disdain of a dastard or vanquished knight. For 4 many 
of this order falling into the hands of the Saracens, 

1 states ; a necessary, 

3 [i.e. Apostate.] * For, 



such of them as had not imbibed the full Spirit of 
their profession, were induced to renounce their faith, 
in order to regain their liberty. These men, as sinning 
against the great fundamental laws of Chivalry, they 
branded with this name ; a name of complicated 
reproach, which implied a want of the two most 
essential qualities of a Knight, COURAGE and FAITH. 

And here, by the way, 1 the reason appears why the 
Spaniards, of all the Europeans, were furthest gone 
in every characteristic madness of true chivalry. To 
all the other considerations, here mentioned, their 
fanaticism in every way was especially instigated and 
kept alive by the memory and neighbourhood of their S 
old infidel invaders. 

And thus we seem to have a fair account of that 
which were the peculiar and vaunted characteristics 
of the purer ages of Chivalry. 

Such was the state of things in the western World, 
when the crusades to the holy land were set on foot. 
Whence we see how well prepared the minds of men 
were for engaging in that enterprize. Every object, 
that had entered into the views of the institutors of 
chivalry, and had been followed by it's professors, was 
now at hand 2 to inflame the military and religious 
ardor of the knights, to the utmost. And here, in 
1 Hence too 2 hand, 



fact, we find the strongest and boldest features of their 
genuine character : Daring to madness, in enterprizes 
of hazard : Burning with zeal for the delivery of the 
oppressed; and, which was deemed the height of 
religious merit, for the rescue of the holy city out of 
the hands of infidels : And, lastly exalting their honour 
of chastity so high as to profess celibacy ; as they 
constantly did, in the several orders of knighthood 
created on that extravagant occasion. 


WHAT think you, my good friend, of my last 
learned Letter ? x Don't you begin to favour 
this 2 conjecture, as whimsical as it may 3 seem, of the 
rise and genius of knight-errantry ? 

But you ask me, where I learned the several particu 
lars, on which I form this profound system. 4 You are 
willing, I perceive, 5 to advance on sure grounds ; and 
call 6 upon me to point out to you the authorities, 
from which I pretend to have collected the several 
marks and characteristics of true chivalry. 

Your request is reasonable, and I acknowledge the 
omission 7 in not acquainting you that my information- 

1 this learned deduction 2 my 3 might 

4 For the reading of the 1788 edition see Appendix A. 

5 you say, ' therefore call 7 omisaion, 



was taken from it's proper Source, the old Romances. 
Not that I shall make a merit with you in having 
perused these barbarous volumes my self ; much less 
would I impose the ungrateful task upon you. Thanks 
to the curiosity of certain painful collectors, this know 
ledge may be obtained at a cheaper rate. And I think 
it sufficient to refer you to a learned and very elaborate 
Memoir of a French writer, who has put together all 
that is requisite to be known on this subject. Materials 
are first laid in, before the Architect goes to work ; 
and if the structure, I am here raising out of them, be 
to your mind, you will not think the worse of it because 
I pretend not, myself, to have worked in the quarry. 
In a word, and to drop this magnificent allusion, if 
I account to you for the rise and genius of chivalry, it 
is all you are to expect : For an idea of what chivalry 
was in itself, you may have recourse to the xx torn. 1 
of the Memoirs of the Academy of Inscriptions and belles 

And with this explanation I return to my proper 

Supposing my idea of chivalry to be fairly given, the 
conjecture I advance on the origin and nature of it, you 
incline to think, may deserve to be admitted. But you 
may, 2 perhaps, admit it the more readily, if you reflect, 
" That there is a remarkable correspondency between " 
" the manners of the old heroic times, as painted by 
1 to torn, xx 2 will 

" their 


" their great romancer, Homer, ajnd those which are 
u represented to us in the books x of modern knight- 
" errantry." A fact, of which no good account, I 
believe, can be given but by the assistance of another, 
not less certain, " That the political state of Greece, 
" in the earlier periods of it's story, was similar in many 
"respects to that of Europe, as broken by the feudal 
" system into an infinite number of petty independent 
" governments." 

It is not my design to encroach on the province of 
the learned person [*], to whom I owe this hint, and 
who hath undertaken, at his leisure, to enlarge upon it. 
But some few circumstances of agreement between the 
heroic and gothic manners, such as are most obvious and 
occur to my memory, while I am writing, may be worth 
putting down, by way of specimen only of what may 
be expected from a professed inquiry into this curious 

And, FIRST, " the military enthusiasm of the Barons 
" is but of a piece with the fanaticism of the Heroes." 
Hence the same particularity of description in the 
account of battles, wounds, deaths in the Greek poet, 
as in the gothic romancers. Hence that perpetual 
succession of combats and deeds of arms, even to 
satiety, in the Iliad : And hence that minute curiosity 2 

1 in books 

[a] See the Memoir, just quoted. 

2 curiosity, 



in the display of their l dresses, arms, accoutrements, 2 
which appears 3 so strange, in that poem. The minds 
of all men, being occupied and in a manner possessed 
with warlike images and ideas, were much gratified by 
the poet's dwelling on the very slightest circumstances 
of these things ; 4 which now, for want of their 
prejudices, appear cold and unaffecting to modern 

But the correspondency holds in more particular 
considerations. For 5 

2. " We hear much of Knights -errant encountering 
" Giants, and quelling Savages, in books of chivalry." 

These Giants were oppressive feudal Lords, 6 and 
every Lord was to be met with, like the Giant, in his 
strong hold, or castle. Their dependants of a lower 
form, who imitated the violence of their superiors, and 
had not their castles, but their lurking-places, were the 
Savages of Romance. The greater Lord was called a 
Giant, for his power ; the less, a Savage, for his 

All this is shadowed out in the gothic tales, and 
sometimes expressed in plain words. The objects of 
the knight's vengeance go indeed by the various names 

1 the " accoutrements of the combatants 

3 we find 4 things, 

5 For, 6 Lords ; 



of Giants, Paynims, Saracens and Savages. But of what 
family they all are, is clearly seen from the Poet's 
description. 1 

What Mister wight, quoth he, and how far hence 

Is he, that doth to travellers such harms ? 
He is, said he, a man of great defence, 

Expert in battle, and in deeds of arms ; 

And more embolden'd by the wicked charms 
With which his daughter doth him still support ; 

Having great Lordships got and goodly farms 
Thro' strong oppression of bis pow'r 2 extort ; 
By which he still them holds and keeps with strong effort; 

And daily he his wrong encreaseth more : 
For never wight he lets to pass that way 

Over his bridge, albee he rich or poor, 

But he him makes his passage-penny pay : 
Else he doth hold him back or beat away. 

Thereto he hath a Groom of evil Guise 

Whose scalp is bare that bondage doth bewray, 

Which polls and pills the poor in piteous wise, 
But he himself upon the rich doth tyrannize. 

SPENSER, B. v. C. 2. 

Here we have the great oppressive Baron very 
graphically set forth : And the Groom of evil guise is 
as plainly the Baron's vassal. The romancers, we see, 
took no great liberty with these respectable personages , 
when they called the one a Giant, and the other a 

1 desscription : * power 

824.31 G " Another 


" Another terror of the gothic ages was, Monsters, 
" Dragons, and Serpents" These stories were received 
in those days for several reasons : I. From the vulgar 
belief of enchantments : 2. From their being reported 
on the faith of Eastern tradition, by the adventurers 
into the holy land : 3. In still later times, from the 
strange things told and believed, on the discovery of 
the new world. 

This last consideration we find employed by Spenser 
to give an air of probability to his Faery tales, in the 
preface to his second book. 

Now in all these respects Greek antiquity very much 
resembles the Gothic. For what are Homer's Laestri- 
gons, and Cyclops, but bands of lawless savages, with, 
each of them, a Giant of enormous size at their head ? 
And what are the Grecian Bacchus, Hercules, and 
Theseus but Knights-errant, 1 the exact counter-parts 
of Sir Launcelot and Amadis de Gaule ? f 

For this interpretation we have the authority of our/ 
great Poet. 

Such first was BACCHUS, that with furious might 
All th'East, before untam'd, did overcome, 

And wrong repressed and establish' d right, 
Which lawless men had formerly fordonne. 

1 and Hercules, but knights-errant, 



Next HERCULES his like ensample shew'd, 

Who all the West with equal conquest wonne, 
And monstrous tyrants with his club subdu'd, 
The club of justice drad, with kingly pow'r endu'd. 

B. v. C. i. 1 

Nay, could the very castle of a Gothic giant be better 
described than in the words of Homer, 

High walls and battlements the courts inclose, 
And the strong gates defy a host of foes. 

Od. B. xvii. ver. 318. 

And do not you remember that the Grecian worthies 
were, in their day, as famous for encountering Dragons 
and quelling Monsters of all sorts, as for suppressing 
Giants ? 

per hos cecidere justa 

Morte Centauri, cecidit tremendae 

Flamma Chimaerae. 

3. " The oppressions, which it was the glory of the 
Knight to avenge, were frequently carried on, as we are 
told, by the charms and enchantments of women" 

These charms, we may suppose, are often meta 
phorical ; as expressing only the blandishments of the 
sex, by which they either seconded the designs of their 
Lords, or were enabled to carry on designs for them- 

1 For an additional passage included in the 1788 edition see 
Appendix B. 

G 2 selves. 


selves. Sometimes they are taken to be real ; the 
ignorance of those ages acquiescing in such conceits. 

And are not these stories matched by those of 
Calypso and Circe, the enchantresses of the Greek 
poet ? 

Still there are conformities more directly to our 

4. " Robbery and Pyracy were honourable in both ; 
so far were they from reflecting any discredit on the 
antient or modern re dressers of wrongs" 

What account can be given of this, 1 but that, in the 
feudal times and in the early days of Greece, when 
government was weak and unable to redress the 
frequent injuries of petty sovereigns, it would be 
glorious for private adventurers' to undertake this 
work ; and, if they could accomplish it in no other 
way, to pay them in kind by downright plunder and 
rapine ? 

This in effect is the account given us, of the same 
disposition of the old Germans, by Caesar. " Latro- 
cinia, says he, nullam habent infamiam, quae extra fines 
cujusque civitatis fiunt." And the reason appears 
from what he had just told us in pace, nullus est 
communis magistratus ; sed principes regionum atque 
1 this odd circumstance, 



pagorum inter suos jus dicunt, controversiasque 
minuunt." De bello Gall. 1. vi. 21. 

5. Their manners, in another respect, were the same. 
" Bastardy was in credit with both." They were 
extremely watchful over the chastity of their own 
women ; but such as they could seize upon in the 
enemy's quarter, 1 were lawful prize. Or, if at any time 
they transgressed in this sort at home, the heroic ages 
were complaisant enough to cover the fault by an 
ingenious fiction. The offspring was reputed divine. 

Nay, so far did they carry their indulgence to this 
commerce, that their greatest heroes were the fruit of 
Goddesses approached by mortals ; just as we hear of 
the doughtiest knights being born of Fairies. 

6. Is it not strange, that, together with the greatest 
fierceness and savageness of character, " The utmost 
generosity, hospitality, and courtesy should be imputed 
to the heroic ages ? " Achilles was at once the most 
relentless, vindictive, implacable, and the friendliest 
of men. 

We have the very same representation in the Gothic 
Romances, where it is almost true what Butler says 
humorously of these benign heroes, that 

They did in fight but cut work out 
T' employ their courtesies about. 

1 quarter 



How are these contradictions * to be reconciled 2 but 
by observing, that, 3 as in those lawless times dangers 
and distresses of all sorts abounded, there would be the 
same demand for compassion, gentleness, and generous 
attachments to the unfortunate, those especially of 
their own clan, as of resentment, rage, and animosity 
against their enemies ? 

7. Again: Consider the martial Games, which antient 
Greece delighted to celebrate on great and solemn 
occasions : And see if they had not the same origin, 
and the same purpose, as the Tournaments of the Gothic 

8. Lastly, " the passion for adventures, so natural 
in their situation, would be as naturally attended with 
the love of praise and glory." 

Hence the same encouragement, in the old Greek 
and Gothic times, to panegyrists and poets ; the BARDS 
being as welcome to the tables of the feudal lords, as the 
AOIAOI of old, to those of the Grecian heroes. 

And, as the same causes ever produce the same effects, 
we find that, even so late as Elizabeth's reign, the 
savage Irish (who were much in the state of the antient 
Greeks, living under the anarchy, rather than govern- 

1 contradictions, in the characters of the antient and modern 
men of arms, 

* reconciled, 3 obserfing that, 



ment, of their numberless puny chiefs) had their 
Rhymers in principal estimation. It was for the 
reason just given, for the honour of their panegyrics on 
their fierce adventures and successes. And thus it was 
in Greece. 

For chief to Poets such respect belongs 
By rival nations courted for their Songs ; 
These, states invite, and mighty kings admire 
Wide as the Sun displays his vital fire. 

Od. B. xvii. 


THE purpose of the casual hints, suggested in my 
last letter, was only to shew that the resemblance 
between the heroic and Gothic ages is very great .1 
And tho' you say true, that ignorance and barbarity 
itself might account for some circumstances of this 
resemblance, yet the parallel would hardly have held 
so long, and run so closely, if the civil condition of both 
had not been much the same. 

So that when we see a sort of chivalry springing up 
among the Greeks, who were confessedly in a state 
resembling that of the feudal barons, and attended by 
the like symptoms and effects, is ^t not fair to conclude 
that the chivalry of the Gothic times was owing to that 

1 is great : For additional passage in 1788 edition see Ap 

pendix C. 



common corresponding state, and received it's character 
from it ? 

And this circumstance, by the way, accounts for the 
constant mixture, which the modern critic esteems so 
monstrous, of pagan fable with the fairy tales of 
Romance. The passion for antient learning, just then 
revived, might seduce the classic poets, such as Spenser 
and Tasso, for instance, into this practice ; but the 
similar turn and genius of antient manners and of the 
fictions founded upon them, would make it appear 
easy and natural in all. 

I am aware, as you object to me, that, in the affair 
of Religion and Gallantry, the resemblance between 
the hero and knight is not so striking. 

But the religious character of the knight was an 

accident of the times, and no proper effect of his civil 
condition. N 

And that his devotion for the sex should so far sur 
pass that of the hero, is a fresh confirmation of my 

For, tho' much, no doubt, might be owing to the 
different humour and genius of the East and West, 
antecedent to any custom l and forms of government, 
and independent of them, yet the consideration had 

1 customs 



of the females in the feudal constitution will, of itself, 
account for this difference. It made them capable of 
succeeding to fiefs as well as the men. And does not 
one see, on the instant, what respect and dependence 
this privilege would draw upon them ? 

It was of mighty consequence who should obtain the 
grace of a rich heiress. And tho', in the strict feudal 
times, she was supposed to be in the power and disposal 
of her superior Lord, yet this rigid state of things did 
not last long ; and, while it did last, could not abate 
much of the homage that would be paid to the fair 

Thus, when interest had begun the habit, the 

language of love and flattery would soon do the rest. 
And to what that language tended you may see by the 
constant strain of the Romances themselves. Some 
distressed damsel was the spring and mover of every 
knight's adventure. She was to be rescued by his 
arms, or won by theA fame and admiration of his 

The plain meaning of all which was this : That, as 
in those turbulent feudal times a protector was neces 
sary to the weakness of the sex, so the courteous and 
valorous knight was to approve himself fully qualified 
for that office. And we find, he had other motives to 
set him on work than the mere charms and graces, tho' 
ever so bewiching, 1 of the person addressed. 

1 bewitching 



Hence then, as I suppose, the custom was intro 
duced : And, when introduced, you will hardly wonder 
it should operate much longer and farther l than the 
reason may seem to require, on which it was founded. 2 

In conclusion of this topic 3 I must just observe to you, 
that the two poems of Homer express in the liveliest 
manner, and were intended to expose, the capital mis 
chiefs and inconveniences arising from the political 
state of old Greece : The Iliad, the dissensions that 
naturally spring up amongst a number of independent 
chiefs ; And the Odyssey, the insolence of their greater 
subjects, more especially when unrestrained by the 
presence of their Sovereign. 

These were the subjects of his pen. And can any 
thing more exactly resemble the condition of the 
feudal times, when, on occasion of any great enterprize, 
as that of the Crusades, the designs of the confederate 
Christian states were perpetually frustrated, or inter 
rupted at least, by the dissensions of their leaders ; and 
their affairs at home as perpetually distressed and dis 
ordered by the rebellious usurpations 4 of their greater 
vassals ? 5 

So that Jerusalem 6 was to the European, what 


For an additional passage in the 1788 edition see Appendix D. 


by domestic license, and the rebellious usurpations 

For an additional passage in the 1788 edition see Appendix E. 

So that, in all respects, Jerusalem 



Troy had been to the Grecian Princes. 1 And you will 
now, I believe, not be supprized to find that Tasso's 
immortal poem was planned after the model of the 
Iliad. 2 


LET it be no surprize 3 to you that, in the close of * 
my last Letter, I presumed to bring the Gierusalemme 
liber ata into competition with the Iliad. 

So far as the heroic and Gothic manners are the 
same, the pictures of each, if well taken, must be 
equally entertaining. But I go further, and maintain 
that the circumstances, in which they differ, are clearly 
to the advantage of the Gothic designers. 

You see, my purpose is to lead you from this for 
gotten chivalry to a more amusing subject, I mean 4 the 
Poetry we still read, and which 5 was founded upon it. 

Much has been said, and with great truth, of the 
felicity of Homer's age, for poetical manners. But as 
Homer was a citizen of the world, when he had seen in 
Greece, on the one hand, the manners he has described, 
could he, on the other hand, have seen in the west the 

1 heroes 

* And though the Odyssey found no rival among the Gothic 
poems, you will think it natural enough from these corresponding 
circumstances, that Tasso's immortal work should be planned 
upon the model of the Iliad. 3 surprise 

4 subject; I mean, * though it 



manners of the feudal ages, I make no doubt but he 
would certainly have preferred the latter. And the 
grounds of this preference would, I suppose, have been 
" The improved gallantry of the feudal times l ; and 
" superior solemnity of their superstitions." 

If any great poet, like Homer, had lived amongst, 
and sung of, the Gothic knights (for after all 2 Spenser 
and Tasso came too late, and it was impossible for them 
to paint truly and perfectly what was no longer seen 
or believed) this preference, I persuade myself, had 
been very sensible. But their fortune was not so 

omnes illacrymabiles 
Urgentur, ignotique longa 
Nocte, carent quia vate sacro. 

As it is, we may take a guess of what the subject was 
capable of affording to real genius from the rude 
sketches we have of it, in the old Romancers. And it 
is but looking into any of them to be convinced that the 
gallantry, which inspirited 3 the feudal times, was of 
a nature to furnish the poet with finer scenes and 
subjects of description in every view, than the simple 
and uncontrolled barbarity of the Grecian. 

The principal entertainment arising from the 
delineation of these consists in the exercise of the 

1 Gothic knights 

2 had flourished in these times and given the feudal manners 
from the life (for, after all, 3 inspired 



boisterous passions, which are provoked and kept alive 
from one end of the Iliad to the other, by every 
imaginable scene of rage, revenge, and slaughter. In 
the other, together with these, the gentler and more 
humane affections are awakened in us by the most 
interesting displays of love and friendship ; of love^ 
elevated to it's noblest heights ; and of friendship, 
operating on the purest motives. The mere variety 
of these paintings is a relief to the reader, as well as 
writer. But their beauty, novelty, and pathos give 
them a vast advantage, on the comparison. 

[Consider, withall, the surprizes, accidents, adven 
tures which probably and naturally attend on the life 
of wandering knights ; the occasion there must be for 
describing the wonders of different countries, and of 
presenting to view the manners and policies of distant 
states : all which make so conspicuous a part of the 
materials of the greater poetry. 1 ] 

So that, on the whole, tho' the spirit, passions, rapin, 2 
and violence of the two sets of manners were equal, 
yet there was a dignity, a magnificence, a variety 3 in- 
the feudal, which the other wanted. 

As to religious machinery, perhaps the popular system 
of each was equally remote from reason, 4 yet the latter 

1 The whole of the foregoing paragraph is omitted in the 1788 
edition. 2 rapine 

3 an elegance, a variety, a dignity in * reason ; 



had something in it more amusing, as well as more 
awakening to the imagination. 

The current popular tales of Elves and Fairies were 
even fitter to take the credulous mind, and charm it 
into a willing admiration of the specious miracles, which 1 
wayward fancy delights in, than those of the old 
traditionary rabble of pagan divinities. And then, for 
the more solemn fancies of witchcraft and incantation, 
the horrors of 2 the Gothic were 3 above measure 
striking and terrible. [The mummeries of the pagan 
priests were childish, but the Gothic Enchanters shook 
and alarmed all nature.] 4 

5 We feel this difference very sensibly in reading the 
antient and modern poets. You would not compare 
the Canidia of Horace with the Witches in Macbeth. 
And what are Virgil's myrtles dropping blood, to 
Tasso's enchanted forest ? 

Ovid indeed, who had a fancy turn'd to romance, 
makes Medea, in a rant, talk wildly. But was this the 
common language of their other writers ? The en 
chantress in Virgil says cooly of the very chiefest 
prodigies of her charms and poisons, 

1 specious miracles which 

2 " the horrors of " not in the 1788 edition. 

3 are 

4 The sentence : ' The mummeries . . . nature ' is omitted in 
the 1788 edition. 

5 For the different reading of the following passage, down to ' in 
this place ', p. 113, in the 1788 edition, see Appendix F. 



His ego saepe" lupum fieri, & se condere sylvis 
Mcerin ; saepe" animas imis excire sepulchris, 
Atque satas alio vidi traducere messes. 

The admirable poet has given an air of the mar 
vellous to his subject, by the magic of his expression. 
Else, what do we find here, but the ordinary effects of 
melancholy, the vulgar superstition of evoking Spirits, 
and the supposed influence of fascination on the hopes 
of rural industry. 

Non isthic obliquo oculo mihi commoda quisquam 
Limat . . . 

says the poet of his country-seat, as if this security 
from a fascinating Eye were a singular privilege, and 
the mark of a more than common good fortune. 

Shakespear, on the other hand, with a terrible 
sublime (which not so much the energy of his genius, 
as the nature of his subject drew from him) gives us 
another idea of the rough magic, as he calls it, of fairy 

... I have bedimm'd 

The noon-tide Sun, call'd forth the mutinous winds, 
And 'twixt the green sea and the azure vault 
Set roaring war ; to the dread rattling thunder 
Have I giv'n fire, and rifted Jove's stout oak 
With his own bolt : The strong-bas'd promontory 
Have I made shake, and by the spurrs pluck' d up 
The Pine and Cedar : Graves, at my command, 
Have open'd, and let forth their sleepers . . . 



The last circumstance, you will say, is but the animas 
imis excire sepulchris of the latin poet. But a very 
significant word marks the difference. The pagan 
necromancers had a hundred little tricks by which 
they pretended to call up the ghosts, or shadows of the 
dead : but these, in the ideas of paganism, were quite 
another thing from Shakespear's Sleepers. 

This may serve for a cast of Shakespear's magic : 
And I can't but think that, when Milton wanted to 
paint the horrors of that night (one of the noblest 
parts in his Paradise Regained) which the Devil himself 
is feigned to conjure up in the wilderness, the Gothic 
language and ideas helped him to work up his tempest 
with such terror. You will judge from these lines : 

. . . nor staid the terror there ; 
Infernal ghosts and hellish furies round 
Environ'd ; some howl'd, some yell'd, some shriek'd, 
Some bent at thee their fiery darts . . . 

But above all from the following, 

Thus pass'd the night so foul, till morning fair 
Came forth with pilgrim steps in amice gray, 
Who with her radiant finger still'd the roar 
Of thunder, chas'd the clouds, and laid the winds 
And griesly specters . . . 

Where the radiant finger points at the potent wand 
of the Gothic magicians, which could reduce the calm 



of nature, upon occasion, as well as disturb it ; and 
the griesly specters laid, by the approach of morn, were 
apparently of their raising, as a sagacious critic per 
ceived when he took notice " how very injudicious it 
" was to retail the popular superstition in this place [*]." 

After * all, the conclusion is not to be drawn so much 
from particular passages, as from the general impression 
left on our minds in reading the antient and modern 
poets. And this is so much in favour of the Latter, 
that Mr. Addison scruples not to say, " The Antients 
" have not much of this poetry among them ; for, 
" indeed (continues he) almost the whole substance of 
" it owes it's original to the darkness and superstition 
" of later ages Our forefathers looked upon nature with 
" more reverence and horror, before the world was 
" enlightened by learning and philosophy, and loved 
" to astonish themselves with the apprehensions of 
" Witchcraft, Prodigies, Charms, and Inchantments. 
" There was not a village in England, that had not a 
" Ghost in it, 2 the churchyards were all haunted, 3 every 
" large common had a circle of fairies belonging to it, 4 
" and there was scarce a Shepherd to be met with who 
" had not seen a spirit." 

We are upon enchanted ground, my friend ; and 
you are to think yourself well used that I detain you no 
longer in this fearful circle. The glympse, you have 
had of it, will help your imagination to conceive the 

[e] In Dr. Newton's edition. * Though after 

8 in it ; haunted ; * to it ; 

824*31 H rest. 


rest. And without more words you will readily appre 
hend that the fancies of our modern bards are not only 
more gallant, but, on a change of the scene, more 
sublime, more terrible, more alarming, than those of 
the classic fablers. In a word, you will find that the 
manners they paint, and the superstitions they 
are the more poetical for being Gothic. 


BUT nothing shews the difference of the two systems 
under consideration more plainly, than the effect" 
they really had on the two greatest of our Poets ; at 
least the Two which an English reader is most fond to 
compare with Homer, 1 I mean SPENSER and'MiLTON. 

It is not to be doubted but that each of these bards 
had kindled his poetic fire from classic fables. So that, 
of course, their prejudices would lie that way. Yet 
they both appear, when most inflamed, to have been 
more particularly rapt with the Gothic fables of 

Spenser, tho' he had been long nourished with the 
spirit and substance of Homer and Virgil, chose the 
times of chivalry for his theme, and fairy Land for the 
scene of his fictions. He could have planned, no doubt, 
an heroic design on the exact classic model : Or, he 
might have trimmed between the Gothic and Classic, 

1 Homer 



as his contemporary Tasso did. But the charms of 
fairy prevailed. And if any think, he was seduced by 
Ariosto into this choice, they should consider that it 
could be only for the sake of his subject ; for the genius 
and character of these poets was widely different. 

Under this idea then of a Gothic, not classical poem, 
the Faery Queen is to be read and criticized. And on 
these principles, it would not be difficult to unfold its 
merit in another way than has been hitherto attempted. 

Milton, it is true, preferred the classic model to the 
Gothic. But it was after long hesitation ; and his 
favourite subject was Arthur and his Knights of the 
round table. On this he had fixed for the greater part 
of his life. What led him to change his mind was, 
partly, as I suppose, his growing fanaticism ; 1 partly, 
his ambition to take a different rout from Spenser ; 
but chiefly perhaps, the discredit into which the stories 
of chivalry had now fallen by the immortal satire of 
Cervantes. Yet we see thro' all his poetry, where his 
^enthusiasm flames out most, a certain predilection for 
the legends of chivalry before the fables of Greece. 

This circumstance, you know, has given offence to 
the austerer and more mechanical critics. They are 
ready to censure his judgment, as juvenile and un 
formed, when they see him so delighted, on all occa 
sions, with the Gothic romances. But do these censors 
1 fondness for religious subjects ; ... 

H 2 imagine 


imagine that Milton did not perceive the defects of 
these works, as well as they ? No : it was not the 
composition of books of chivalry, but the manners 
described in them, that took his fancy ; as appears 
from his Allegro 

Towred cities please us then 
And the busy hum of men, 
Where throngs of knights and barons bold 
In weeds of peace high triumphs hold, 
With store of ladies, whose bright eyes 
Rain influence, and judge the prize 
Of wit, or arms, while both contend 
To win her grace, whom all commend, 

And when in the Penseroso he draws, by a fine con 
trivance, the same kind of image to sooth melancholy 
which he had before given to excite mirth, he indeed 
extolls an author of one of these 1 romances, as he had 
before, in general, extolled the subject of them ; but it is 
an author 2 worthy of his praise ; not the writer of 
dmadiS) or 3 Sir Launcelot of the Lake, but Chaucer 
himself, 4 who has left an unfinished story on the 
Gothic or feudal model. 

Or, call up him that left half-told 
The story of Cambuscan bold, 
Of Camball and of Algarsife, 
And who had Canace to wife 

1 an author, or two, of these 

8 they are authors and 

4 } but Fairy SPENSER and CHAUCER himself, 



That own'd the virtuous ring and glass, 
And of the wondrous horse of brass, 
On which the Tartar king did ride ; 
And if ought else great bards beside 
In sage and solemn tunes have sung 
Of turneys and of trophies hung, 
Of forests and inchantments drear, 
Where more is meant than meets the ear. 

The conduct then of these two poets may incline us 
to think with more respect, than is commonly done of 
the Gothic manners, I mean 1 as adapted to the uses of the 
greater poetry. 

I say 2 nothing of Shakespear, 3 because the sublimity 
(the divinity, let it be, if nothing else will serve) of his 
genius kept no certain rout, but rambled at hazard into 
all the regions of human life and manners. So that we 
can hardly say what he preferred, or what he rejected, 
on full deliberation. Yet one thing is clear, that even 
he is greater when he uses Gothic manners and 
machinery, than when he employs classical : which 
brings us again to the same point, that the former have, 
by their nature and genius, the advantage of the latter" 
in producing the sublime. 

1 manners ; I mean, 

8 shall add 

* to what I before observed of SHAKESPEAR, 





spoke " of criticizing Spenser's poem, under the 
" idea, not of a classical but Gothic composition." 

It is certain much light might be thrown on that 
singular work, were an able critic to consider it in this 
view. For instance, he might go some way towards 
explaining, perhaps justifying, the general plan and 
conduct of the Faery 1 Queen, which, to classical readers 
has appeared indefensible. 

I have taken the fancy, with your leave, to try my 
hand on this curious subject. 

When an architect examines a Gothic structure by 
Grecian rules, he finds nothing but deformity. But 
the Gothic architecture has it's own rules, by whichr' 
when it comes to be examined, it is seen to have it's 
merit, as well as the Grecian. The question is not, 
which of the two is conducted in the simplest or truest 
taste : but, whether there be not sense and design in 
both, when scrutinized by the laws on which each is 

The same observation holds of the two sorts of 
poetry. Judge of the Faery Queen by the classic models, 
and you are shocked with it's disorder : consider it 
with an eye to it's Gothic original, and you find it 

1 Fairy (and so throughout : Ed.) 



regular. The unity and simplicity of the former are 
more complete : but the latter has that sort of unity 
and simplicity, which results from it's nature. 

The Faery Queen then, as a Gothic poem, derives 
it's METHOD, as well as the other characters of it's 
composition, from the established modes and ideas of 

It was usual, in the days of knight-errantry, at the 
holding of any great feast, for Knights to appear before 
the Prince, who presided at it, and claim the privilege 
of being sent on any adventure, to which the solemnity 
might give occasion. For it was supposed that, when 
such a throng of knights and barons bold, as Milton speaks 
of, were got together, the distressed would flock in from 
all quarters, as to a place where they knew they might 
find and claim redress for all their grievances. 

This was the real practice, in the days of pure and 
antient chivalry. And an image of this practice was 
afterwards kept up in the castles of the great, on any 
extraordinary festival or solemnity : of which, if you 
want an instance, I refer you to the description of a 
feast made at Lisle in 1453, in the court of Philip the 
Good, Duke of Burgundy, 1 for a crusade against the 
Turks : As you may find it given at large in the memoirs 
of Matthieu de Conci, Olivier de la Marche, and 

1 Good duke of Burgundy , 



That feast was held for twelve days : and each day 
was distinguished by the claim and allowance of some 

Now laying down this practice, as a foundation for 
the poet's design, you will see how properly the Faery 
Queen is conducted. 

" I devise, says the poet himself in his Letter 

" to Sir W. Raleigh, that the Faery Queen kept her 
" annual feaste xii days : upon which xii several days, 
" the occasions of the xii several adventures hapened ; 
" which being undertaken by xii several knights, are 
" in these xii books severally handled." 

Here you have the poet delivering his own method, and 
the reason of it. It arose out of the order of his subject. 
And would you desire a better reason for his choice ? 

Yes ; you will say, a poet's method is not that of his 
subject. I grant you, as to the order of time, in which 
the recital is made ; for here, as Spenser observes (and 
his own practice agrees to the Rule) lies the main 
difference between the poet historical, and the historio 
grapher : The reason of which is drawn from the nature 
of Epic composition itself, and holds equally, let the 
subject be what it will, and whatever the system of 
manners be, on which it is conducted. Gothic or 
Classic makes no difference in this respect. 



But the case is not the same with regard to the general 
plan of a work, or what may be called the order of distri 
bution, which is and must be governed by the subject- 
matter itself. It was as requisite for the Faery Queen 
to consist of the adventures of twelve knights, as for 
the Odyssey to be confined to the adventures of one 
Hero : Justice had otherwise not been done to his 

So that if you will say any thing against the 
poet's method, you must say that he should not 
have chosen this subject. But this objection arises 
from your classic ideas of Unity, which have no place 
here ; and are in every view foreign to the purpose, 
if the poet has found means to give his work, tho' 
consisting of many parts, the advantage of Unity. 
For in some reasonable sense or other, it is agreed, 
every work of art must be one, the very idea of a 
work requiring it. 

If you ask then, what is this Unity of Spenser's Poem ? 
I say, It consists in the relation of it's several adventures 
to one common original, the appointment of the Faery 
Queen ; and to one common end, the completion of 
the Faery Queen's injunctions. The knights issued 
forth on their adventures on the breaking up of this 
annual feast ; and the next annual feast, we are to 
suppose, is to bring them together again from the 
atchievement of their several charges. 



This, it is true, is not the classic Unity, which con 
sists in the representation of one entire action : but 
it is an Unity of another sort, an unity resulting from 
the respect which a number of related actions have to 
one common purpose. In other words, It is an unity 
of design, and not of action. 

This Gothic method of design in poetry may be, in 
some sort, illustrated by what is called the Gothic 
method of design in Gardening. A wood or grove cut 
out into many separate avenues or glades was amongst 
the most favourite of the works of art, which our 
fathers attempted in this species of cultivation. These 
walks were distinct from each other, had, each, their 
several destination, and terminated on theic own proper 
objects. Yet the whole was brought together and 
considered under one view by the relation which these 
various openings had, not to each other, but to their 
common and concurrent center. You and I are, per 
haps, agreed that this sort of gardening is not of so 
true a taste as that which Kent and Nature have brought 
us acquainted with ; where the supreme art of the 
Designer consists in disposing his ground and objects 
into an entire landskip ; and grouping them, if I may 
use the term, in so easy a manner, that the careless 
observer, tho* he be taken with the symmetry of the 
whole, discovers no art in the combination : 

In lieto aspetto il bel giardin s'aperse, 
Acque stagnanti, mobili cristalli, 



Fior vari, e varie piante, herbe diverse, 
Apriche Collinette, ombrose valli, 
Selve, e spelunche in UNA VISTA offerse : 
E quel, che'l bello, e'l caro accresce a 1'opre, 
L'Arte, che tutto fa, nulla si scopre. 

Tasso. C. xvi. S. ix. 

This, I say, may be the truest taste in gardening, 
because the simplest : Yet there is a manifest regard to 
unity in the other method ; which has had it's admirers, 
as it may have again, and is certainly not without it's 
design and beauty. 

But to return to our poet. Thus far he drew from 
Gothic ideas, and these ideas, I think, would lead him 
no farther. But, as Spenser knew what belonged to 
classic composition, he was tempted to tie his subject 
still closer together by one expedient of his own, and by 
another taken from his classic models. 

His own was to interrupt the proper story of each 
book, by dispersing it into several ; involving by this 
means, and as it were intertwisting the several actions 
together, in order to give something like the appearance 
of one action to his twelve adventures. And for this 
conduct, as absurd as it seems, he had some great 
examples in the Italian poets, tho' I believe, they were 
led into it by different motives. 

The other expedient which he borrowed from the 
classics, was by adopting one superior character, which 



should be seen throughout. Prince Arthur, who had 
a separate adventure of his own, was to have his part 
in each of the other ; and thus several actions were to 
be embodied by the interest which one principal Hero 
had in them all. It is even observable, that Spenser 
gives this adventure of Prince Arthur, in quest of 
Gloriana, as the proper subject of his poem. And upon 
this idea the late learned editor of the Faery Queen has 
attempted, but I think 1 without success, to defend the 
Unity and simplicity of it's fable. The truth was, the 
violence of classic prejudices forced the poet to affect 
this appearance of unity, tho' in contradiction to his 
gothic system. And, as far as we can judge of the 
tenour of the whole work from the finished half of it, 
the adventure of Prince Arthur, whatever the author 
pretended, and his critic too easily believed, was but 
an after thought ; and at least with regard to the 
historical fable, which we are now considering, was only 
one of the expedients by which he would conceal the 
disorder of his Gothic plan. 

And if this was his design, I will venture to say that 
both his expedients were injudicious. Their purpose 
was to ally two things, in nature incompatible, the 
Gothic, and the classic unity ; the effect of which mis 
alliance was to discover and expose the nakedness of the 

I am of opinion then, considering the Faery Queen 
as an epic or narrative poem constructed on Gothic 

1 but, I think, 



ideas, that the Poet had done well to affect no other 
unity than that of design, by which his subject was 
connected. But his poem is not simply narrative ; it is 
throughout Allegorical : he calls it a perpetual allegory 
or dark conceit : and this character, for reasons I may 
have occasion to observe hereafter, was even pre 
dominant in the Faery Queen. His narration is sub 
servient to his moral, and but serves to colour it. This 
he tells us himself at setting out. 

Fierce wars and faithful loves shall moralize my song, 

that is, shall serve for a vehicle, or instrument to 
convey the moral. 

Now under this idea, the Unity of the Faery Queen 
is more apparent. His twelve knights are to exemplify 
as many virtues, out of which one illustrious character 
is to be composed. And in this view the part of Prince 
Arthur in each book becomes essential, and yet not 
principal ; exactly, as the poet has contrived it. They 
who rest in the literal story, that is, who criticize it on 
the footing of a narrative poem, have constantly 
objected to this management. They say, it necessarily 
breaks the unity of design. Prince Arthur, they affirm, 
should either have had no part in the other adventures, 
or he should have had the chief part. 1 He should either 
have done nothing, or more. And the objection is 
unanswerable ; at least I know of nothing that can be 
said to remove it but what I have supposed above 

1 For the different reading of the following passage see 
Appendix G. 



might be the purpose of the poet, and which I myself 
have rejected as insufficient. 

But how faulty soever this conduct be in the literal 
story, it is perfectly right in the moral : and that for an 
obvious reason, tho' his critics seem not to have been 
aware of it. His chief hero was not to have the twelve 
virtues in the degree in which the knights had, each of 
them, their own ; (such a character would be a mon 
ster) 1 but he was to have so much of each as was 
requisite to form his superior character. Each virtue, 
in it's perfection, is exemplified in it's own knight : they 
are all, in a due degree, concenter'd 2 in Prince Arthur. 

This was the poet's moral : And what way of express 
ing this moral in the history, but by making Prince 
Arthur appear in each adventure, and in a manner 
subordinate to it's proper hero ? Thus, tho' inferior 
to each in his own specific virtue, he is superior to all 
by uniting the whole circle of their virtues in himself : 
And thus he arrives, at length, at the possession of that 
bright form of Glory, whose ravishing beauty, as seen 
in a dream or vision, had led him out into these 
miraculous adventures in the land of Faery. 

The conclusion is, that, as an allegorical poem, the 
method of the Faery Queen is governed by the just 
ness of the moral : As a narrative poem, it is conducted 

1 their own (such a character would be a monster ;) 
* concentrated 



on the ideas and usages of chivalry. In either view, if 
taken by itself, the plan is defensible. But from the 
union of the two designs there arises a perplexity and 
confusion, which is the proper, and only considerable, 
defect of this extraordinary poem. 


NO doubt Spenser might have taken one single 
adventure, of the TWELVE, for the subject of his 
Poem ; or he might have given the principal part in 
every adventure to P. 1 Arthur. By this means his fable 
had been of the classic kind, and it's unity as strict as 
that of Homer and Virgil. 

All this the poet knew very well, 2 but his purpose 
was not to write a classic poem. He chose to adorn 
a gothic story ; and, to be consistent throughout, he 
chose that the form of his work shoud 3 be of a piece 
with his subject. 

Did the Poet do right in this ? I cannot tell, 4 but 
comparing his work with that of another great Poet, 
who followed the system you seem to recommend, 
I see no reason to be peremptory in condemning his 

The example of this poet deserves to be considered. 
It will afford, at least, a fresh confirmation of the point, 

1 Prince 3 well ; 

3 should 4 tell: 

I principally 


I principally insist upon, I mean, The preeminence of 
the Gothic manners* and fictions, as adapted to the ends of 
poetry, above the classic, 

I observed of the famous Torquato Tasso, that, 
coming into the world a little of the latest for the 
success of the pure Gothic manner, he thought fit to 
trim between that and the classic model. 

It was lucky for his fame, perhaps, that 2 he did so. 
For the gothic fables falling every day more and more 
into contempt, and the learning of the times, through 
out all Europe, taking a classic turn, the reputation of 
his work has been chiefly founded on the strong resem 
blance it has to the antient epic poems. His fable is con 
ducted in the spirit of the Iliad, and with a strict regard 
to that unity of action which we admire in Homer arid 

But this is not all; we find a studied and close imita 
tion of those poets, in many of the smaller parts, in the 
minuter incidents, and even in the descriptions, and 
similies of his poem. 

The classic reader was pleased with this deference 
to the public taste : he saw with delight the favourite 
beauties of Homer and Virgil reflected in the Italian 

1 I principally insist upon the pre-eminence of the GOTHIC 

2 fame that 

poet : 


poet : and was almost ready to excuse, for the sake of 
these, his magic tales and faery enchantments. 

I said, was almost ready ; for the offence given by 
these to l the more fashionable sort of critics was so 
great, that nothing, I believe, could make full amends, 
in their judgment, for such extravagancies. 

However, by this means the Gierusalemme Liber ata 
made it's fortune amongst the French wits, who have 
constantly cried it up above the Orlando furioso, and 
principally for this reason, that Tasso was more classical 
in his fable, and more sparing in the wonders of gothic 
fiction, than his Predecessor. 

The Italians have indeed a predilection for their elder 
bard, whether from their prejudice for antiquity ; 2 
their admiration of his language ; the richness of his 
invention ; the comic air of his style and manner ; or 
from whatever other reason. 

Be this as it will, the French criticism has carried it 
before the Italian, with the rest of Europe. This 
dextrous people have found means to lead the taste, as 
well as set the fashions, of their neighbours : And 
Ariosto ranks but little higher than the rudest romancer 
in the opinion of those who take their notions of these 
things from their writers. 

1 these tales to * for his subject ; 

824 31 I But 


But the same principle, which made them give Tasso 
the preference to Ariosto, has led them by degrees to 
think very unfavorably of Tasso himself. The mixture 
of the gothic manner in his work has not been forgiven. 
It has sunk the creditof all the rest ; and some instances 
of false taste in the expression of his sentiments, detected, 
by their nicer critics, have brought matters to that 
pass, that, with their good will, Tasso himself should 
now follow the fate of Ariosto. 

I will not say, that a little national envy did not 
perhaps mix itself with their other reasons for under 
valuing this great poet. They aspired to a sort of 
supremacy in Letters ; and finding the Italian language 
and its best writers standing in their way, they have 
spared no pains to lower the estimation of both. 

Whatever their inducements were, they succeeded 
but too well in their attempt. Our obsequious and 
over modest critics were run down by their authority. 
Their taste of Letters, with some worse things, was-, 
brought amongst us at the Restoration. Their lan 
guage, their manners, nay their very prejudices were 
adopted by our Frenchified l king and his Royalists. 
And the more fashionable wits, of course, set their 
fancies, as my Lord Molesworth tells us the people of 
Copenhagen in his time did their clocks, by the court- 

1 polite 



Sir W. Davenant open'd the way to this new sort 
of criticism in a very elaborate preface to Gondibert ; 
and his philosophic friend, Mr. Hobbes, lent his best 
assistance towards establishing the credit of it. These 
two fine Letters contain, indeed, the substance of 
whatever has been since written on the subject. 
Succeeding wits and critics did no more than echo 
their language. It grew into a sort of cant, with which 
Rymer, and the rest of that School, filled their flimsy 
essays and rambling prefaces. 

Our noble critic himself * condescended to take up 
this trite theme : And it is not to be told with what 
alacrity and self-complacency he flourishes upon it. 
The Gothic manner, as he calls it, is the favourite object 
of his raillery ; which is never more lively or pointed, 
than when it exposes that " bad taste which makes us 
" prefer an Ariosto to a Virgil, and a Romance (without 
" doubt he meant, of Tasso) to an Iliad." Truly, this 
critical sin requires an expiation, which is easily made 
by subscribing to his sentence, " That the French 
" indeed may boast of legitimate authors of a just 
" relish ; but that the Italian are good for nothing 
" but to corrupt the taste of those who have had no 
" familiarity with the noble antients." l 

This ingenious nobleman is, himself, one of the 
gallant votaries he sometimes makes himself so merry 

* Lord Shaftcsbury, Adv. to an Author. 

1 ancients/ / Adv. to an Author, Ft. in. S. ii. 

I 2 with 


with. He is perfectly enamoured of his noble antients^ 
and will fight with any man who contends, not that 
his Lordship's mistress is not fair, but that his own is 
fair also. 

It is certain the French wits benefited by this foible. 
For pretending, in great modesty, to have formed 
themselves on the pure taste of his noble ancients, they 
easily drew his Lordship over to their party : While 
the Italians more stubbornly pretending to a taste of 
their own, and chusing to lye for themselves, instead of 
adopting the authorized lyes of Greece, were justly 
exposed to his resentment. 

Such was the address of the French writers, and such 
their triumphs over the poor Italians. 

It must be owned, indeed, they had every advantage 
on their side, in this contest with their masters. The 
taste andlearning of Italy had been long on the decline, 1 
and the fine writers under Louis XIV were every day 
advancing the French language, such as it is, (simple, 
clear, exact, that is, fit for business and conversation ; 
but for that reason, besides it's total want of numbers, 
absolutely unsuited to the genius of the greater poetry) 
towards it's last perfection. The purity of the antient 
manner became well understood, and it was the pride 
of their best critics to expose every instance of false 
taste in the modern writers. The Italian, it is certain, 
could not stand so severe a scrutiny. But they had 

1 decline 



escaped better, if the most fashionable of the French 
poets had not, at the same time, been their best critic. 

A lucky word in a verse, which sounds well and every 
body gets by heart, goes farther 1 than a volume of just 
criticism. In short, the exact, but cold Boileau hap 
pened to say something of the clinquant of Tasso ; and 
the magic of this word, like the report of Astolfo's horn 
in Ariosto, overturned at once the solid and well built 
reputation of the Italian poetry. 

It is not perhaps so amazing 2 that this potent word 
should do it's business in France. It 3 put us into 
a fright on this side the water. Mr. Addison, who 
gave the law in taste here, took it up 4 and sent it about 
the kingdom in his polite and popular essays. 5 It 
became a sort of watch-word among the critics ; and, 
on the sudden, nothing was heard, on all sides, but the 
clinquant of Tasso. 

After all, these two respectable writers might not 
intend the mischief they were doing. The observation 
was just, but was extended much farther 6 than they 
meant, by their witless followers and admirers. The 
effect was, as I said, that the Italian poetry was rejected 
in the gross, by virtue of this censure ; tho' the authors 
of it had said no more than this, " That their best poet 

1 further 2 strange 8 What was less to be expected, it 

4 up, 6 essays 9 further Spectator, vol. i. 

N 5, vol. v. N 369. 



" had some false thoughts, and dealt, as they supposed, 
" too much in incredible fiction." 

I leave you to make your own reflexions on this short 
history of the Italian poetry. It is not my design to 
make it's apology 1 in all respects. However, with 
regard to the first of these charges, I presume to say 2 
that, as just as it is in the sense in which I persuade 
myself it was intended, there are more instances of 
natural sentiment 3 and of that divine simplicity we 
admire in the antients, even in Guarini's Pastor Fido, 
than in the best of the French poets. 

And as to the last* I pretend to shew you, in my 
next Letter, that it is no fault at all in the Italian poets. 


non sa che cos a sia Italia? If this question 
could ever be reasonably asked on any occasion, it 
must surely be when the wit and poetry of that 
people were under consideration. The enchantingsweet- 
ness of their tongue, the richness of their invention, the 
fire and elevation of their genius, the splendor of their 
expression on great subjects, and the native simplicity 
of their sentiments, on affecting ones ; All these are 
such manifest advantages on the side of the Italian 

1 be its apologist 2 say, 8 sentiment, 

4 last charge, * splendour 



poets, as should seem to command our highest admira 
tion of their great and capital works, 

Yet a different language has been held by our finer 
critics. And in particular you hear it commonly said 
of the tales of Faery, which they first and principally 
adorned, " That they are unnatural l and absurd ; 
" that they surpass all bounds not of truth only, but of 
" probability ; and look more like the dreams of 
" children, than the manly inventions of poets." 

All this, and more, has been said ; and if truely 2 
said, who would not lament 

L'arte del poe'tar troppo infelice ? 

For they are not the cold fancies of plebeian poets, 
but the golden dreams of Ariosto, the celestial visions 
of Tasso, that are thus derided. 3 

The only criticism, indeed that is worth regarding 
is, the philosophical. 4 But there is a sort which looks 
like philosophy, and is not. May not that be the case 
here ? 

This criticism, whatever name it deserves, supposes 
that the poets, who are lyars by profession, expect to 
have their lyes believed. Surely they are not so un- 

1 extravagant 2 truly 

3 For additional passage of 1788 see Appendix H. 
* It is true the only criticism, worth regarding, is that which 
these critics lay claim to, the philosophical. 



reasonable. They think it enough, if they can but 
bring you to imagine the possibility of them. 

And how small a matter will serve for this ? A legend, 
a tale, a tradition, a rumour, a superstition ; in short, 
any thing is enough to be the basis of their air-form'd 
visions. Does any capable reader trouble himself about 
the truth, or even the credibility of their fancies ? 
Alas, no ; he is best pleased when he is made to con 
ceive (he minds not by what magic) the existence of 
such things as his reason tells him did not, and were 
never likely to, exist. 

But here, to prevent mistakes, an explanation will 
be necessary. We must distinguish between the -popular 
belief, and that of the Reader. The fictions of poetry do, 
in some degree at least, require the first ; (They 1 would, 
otherwise, deservedly pass for dreams indeed) : But 
when the poet has this advantage on his side, and his 
fancies have, or may be supposed to have, a countenance 
from the current superstitions of the age, in which he 
writes, he dispenses with the last, and gives his Reader 
leave to be as sceptical and as incredulous, as he pleases. 

An eminent French critic diverts himself with 
imagining " what a person, who comes fresh from 
"reading Mr. Addison and Mr. Lock, 2 would be apt to 
" think of Tasso's Enchantment *." 

1 first (they 2 Locke 

* Voltaire, Essai sur la Poesie Epique, Ch. vii. 



The English reader will, perhaps, smile at seeing these 
two writers so coupled together : And, with the critic's 
leave, we will put Mr. Lock 1 out of the question. But 
if he be desirous to know what a reader of Mr. Addison 
would pronounce in the case, I can undertake to give 
him satisfaction. 

Speaking of what Mr. Dryden calls, the Faery way 
of writing, " Men of cold fancies and philosophical 
" dispositions, says he, object to this kind of poetry, 
" that it has not probability enough to affect the 
" imagination. But . . . many are prepossest with such 
" false opinions, as dispose them to believe these par- </ 
" ticular delusions : At least, we have all hear'd so 
" many pleasing relations in favour of them, that we 
" do not care for seeing thro' thefalskood, 2 and willingly"" 
" give ourselves up to so agreable 3 an imposture." 
\. [Spect. V. vi.] 4 

Apply, now, this sage judgment of Mr. Addison to 
lasso's Enchantments? and you see that a falshood 5 
convict is not to be pleaded against a supposed belief, 
or even the slightest hear-say. 

So little account does this wicked poetry make of 
philosophical or historical truth : All she allows us to 
look for, is poetical truth ; a very slender thing indeed, 
and which the poet's eye, when rolling in it's 6 finest 

1 Locke - falsehood 8 agreeable 

4 [Spect. fi4i9.] 8 Enchantments; 8 a 



frenzy, 1 can but just lay hold of. ' To speak in the 
philosophic language of Mr. Hobbes, It is something 
much beyond the actual bounds, and only within the 
conceived -possibility, of* nature. 

^ But the source of bad criticism, as universally of 

bad philosophy, is the abuse of terms. A poet, they 

say, must follow Nature ; and by Nature we are to 

suppose can only be meant the known and experienced 

i course of affairs in this world. Whereas the poet has 

1 a world of his own, where experience has less to do, 

than consistent imagination. 

He has, besides, a supernatural world to range in. 
He has Gods, and Faeries, and Witches at his com 
mand : and, 

O ! who can tell 

The hidden pow'r of herbes, and might of magic spell ? 

Spenser. B. i. 3 C. 2. 

Thus 4 in the poet's world, all is ^marvellous and 
extraordinary ; yet not unnatural in one sense, as it 
agrees to the conceptions that are readily entertained 
\ of these magical and wonder-working Natures. 

This trite maxim of following Nature is further mis 
taken 5 in applying it indiscriminately to all sorts of 

1 fine frenzy, z possibility of 

8 B. v. (But B. i. is correct. Ed.) * Thus, 

6 mistaken, 



In those species which have men and manners 
professedly for their theme, a strict conformity with 
human nature is reasonably demanded. I 

Non hie Centauros, non Gorgonas, Harpyiasque 
Invenies : hominem pagina nostra sapit : 

is a proper motto to a book of Epigrams, 1 but would 
make a poor figure at the head of an epic poem. 

v Still further, in 2 those species that address themselves^ 
to the heart 3 and would obtain their end, not thro' the 
Imagination, but thro' the Passions, there the liberty 
of transgressing nature, I mean the real powers and 
properties of human nature, is infinitely restrained ; 
and poetical truth is, under these circumstances, almost 
as severe a thing as historical. 

The reason is^we must first believe, before we can be^" 

But the case is different with the more sublime and 
creative poetry. This species, addressing itself solely 
or principally to the Imagination ; a young and 
credulous faculty, which loves to admire and to be 
deceived ; has no need to observe those cautious rules 
of credibility 4 so necessary to be followed by him, who 
would touch the affections and interest the heart. 

1 epigrams ; * further in * heart, 4 credibility, 



This difference, you will say, is obvious enough. How 
came it then to be overlooked ? From another mistake, 
in extending a particular precept of the drama into 
a general maxim. 

. The incredulus odi of Horace ran in the heads of 
these critics, tho' his own words confine the observa 
tion singly to the stage. 

Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem 
Quam quae sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus, et quae 
Ipse sibi tradit Spectator 

That, which passes in representation and challenges, 
as it were, the scrutiny of the eye, must be truth itself, 
or something very nearly approaching to it. But what 
passes in narration, even on the stage, is admitted 
without much difficulty 

multaque tolles 
Ex oculis, quae mox narret facundia praesens- 1 

In the epic narration, which may be called absens 
facundia, the reason of the thing shews this indulgence 
to be still greater. It appeals neither to the eye nor 
the ear, but simply to the imagination, and so allows 
the poet a liberty of multiplying and enlarging his 
impostures at pleasure, in proportion to the easiness 
and comprehension of that faculty. 2 

1 presens 

2 faculty *. (For note in 1788 edition see Appendix J.) 



These general reflexions hardly require an application 
to the present subject. The tales of faery are exploded, 
as fantastic and incredible. They would merit this 
contempt, if presented on the stage ; I mean, if they 
were given as the proper subject of dramatic imitation, 
and the interest of the poet's plot were to be wrought 
out of the adventures of these marvellous persons. But 
the epic muse runs no risque in giving way to such 
fanciful exhibitions. 


You may call them, as one does, " extraordinary 
" dreams, such as excellent poets and painters, by 
" being over studious, may have in the beginning of 
" fevers [b]. 99 

The epic poet would acknowledge the charge, and 
even value himself upon it. He would say, " I leave 
to the sage dramatist the merit of being always 
broad awake, and always in his senses : The divine 
dream \c], and delirious fancy, are among the noblest 
of my prerogatives." 

But the injustice done the Italian poets does not 
stop here. The cry is, " Magic and enchantments 
" are senseless things. Therefore the Italian poets are 
" not worth the reading." As if, because the supersti 
tions of Homer and Virgil are no longer believed, their 
poems, which abound in them, are good for nothing.// 

Sir W. Davenant's Preface. 

(b. 1762) 0e toy "Oveipos. Homer. 



Yes, you will say, their fine pictures of life and 

And may not I say the same, in behalf of Ariosto 
and Tasso ? For it is not true that all is unnatural and 
monstrous in their poems, because of this mixture of the 
wonderful. Admit, for example, Armida's marvellous 
conveyance to the happy Island, and all the rest of the 
love-story is as natural, that is, as suitable to our 
common notions of that passion, as any thing in Virgil 
or (if you will) Voltaire. 

Thus you see 1 the apology of the Italian poets is easily 
made on every supposition. But I stick to my point 
and maintain that the faery tales of Tasso do him more 
honour than what are called the more natural, that is, 
the classical parts of his poem. His imitations of the 
antients have indeed their merit ; for he was a genius 
in every thing. But they are faint and cold 2 and almost 
insipid, when compared with his original 3 fictions. We 
make a shift to run over the passages he has copied from 
Virgil. We are all on fire amidst the magical feats of 
Ismen, and the enchantments of Armida. 

Magnanima mensogna, hor quando e il vero 
Si bello, che si possa a te preporre ? 

I speak at least for myself ; and must freely own, 

1 Thus, you see, * cold, 8 Gothic 



if it were not for these Lyes of Gothic invention, 
I should scarcely be disposed to give the Gierusalemme 
Liberata a second reading. 

I readily agree to the lively observation, " That 
" impenetrable armour, inchanted castles, invulnerable 
" bodies, iron men, flying horses, and other such things, 
" are easily feigned by them that dare [</]." But, with 
the observer's leave, not so feigned as we find them 
in the Italian poets, unless the writer have another 
quality, besides that of courage. 

One thing is true, that the success of these fictions 
will not be great, when they have no longer any footing 
in the popular belief : And the reason is, that readers 
do not usually do, 1 as they ought, put themselves in the 
circumstances of the poet, or rather of those, of whom 
the poet writes. But this only shews, that some ages 
are not so fit to write epic poems in, as others ; not, 
that they should be otherwise written. 

It is also true, that writers do not succeed so well in 
painting what they have heard, as what they believe 3 
themselves, or at least observe in others a facility of 
believing. And on this account I would advise no 
modern poet to revive these faery tales in an epic poem. 
But still this is nothing to the case in hand, where we are 
considering the merit of epic poems, written under 
other circumstances. 

[d\ Mr. Hobbes's Letter. l do a believe, 



The pagan Gods, and Gothic Faeries were equally^ 
out of credit, when Milton wrote. He did well there 
fore to supply their room with angels and devils. If 
these too should wear out of the popular creed (and 
they seem in a hopeful way, from the liberty some late 
critics have taken with them) I know not what other 
expedients the epic poet might have recourse to ; but 
this I know, the pomp of verse, the energy of descrip 
tion, and even the finest moral paintings would stand 
him in no stead. Without admiration (which cannot^ 
be effected but by the marvellous of celestial inter 
vention, I mean, the agency of superior natures really 
existing, or by the illusion of the fancy taken to be so) 
no epic poem can be long-lived. 

I am not afraid to instance in the Henriade itself ; 
which, notwithstanding the elegance of the composi 
tion, will in a short time be no more read than the 
Gondibert of Sir W. Davenant, and for the same reason. 

y \ Critics may talk what they will of Truth and Nature, 
and abuse the Italian poets, 1 as they will, for trans 
gressing both in their incredible fictions. But believe 
it, my friend, these fictions with which they have 
studied to delude the world, are of that kind of credit 
able deceits, of which a wise antient pronounces with 
assurance, " That they, who deceive, are honester than 
" they who do not deceive ; and they, who are /deceived, 
" wiser than they who are not deceived"!^' 
1 poets 




BUT you are weary of hearing so much of these 
exploded fancies ; and are ready to ask, if there be 
any truth in this representation, " Whence it has come 
" to pass, that the classical manners are still admired 
" and imitated by the poets, when the Gothic have 
" long since fallen into disuse ? 

The answer to this question will furnish all that is 
now wanting to a proper discussion of the present 

ONE great reason of this difference certainly was, 
That the ablest writers of Greece ennobled the system 
of heroic manners, while it was fresh and flourishing ; 
and their works, being master-pieces of composition, 
so fixed the credit of it in the opinion of the world, 
that no revolutions of time and taste could afterwards 
shake it. 

Whereas the Gothic having been disgraced in their 
infancy by bad writers, and a new set of manners 
springing up before there were any better to do them 
justice, they could never be brought into vogue by 
the attempts of later poets ; who l in spite of prejudice, 
and for the genuine charm of these highly poetical 
manners, did their utmost to recommend them. 

1 who yetj 
824-31 K But 


But, FURTHER, the Gothic system was not only 
forced to wait long for real genius to do it honour ; 
real genius was even very early employed against it. 

There were two causes of this mishap. The old 
romancers had even outraged the truth in their 
extravagant pictures of chivalry : And Chivalry itself, 
such as it once had been, was greatly abated. 

So that men of sense were doubly disgusted to find 
a representation of things unlike to what they observed 
in real life, and beyond what it was ever possible should 
have existed. However, with these disadvantages 1 
there was still so much of the old spirit left, and the 
fascination of these wondrous tales was so prevalent, 
that a more than common degree of sagacity and good 
sense was required to penetrate the illusion. 

It was one of this character, I suppose, that put the 
famous question to Ariosto, which has been so often 
repeated that I shall spare you the disgust of hearing it. 
\/ Yet long before his time an immortal genius of our own 
(so superior is the sense of some men to the age they live 
in) saw as far into this matter, as Ariosto's examiner. 
This sagacious person 2 was Dan Chaucer ; who in a 
reign, that almost realized the wonders of romantic 
chivalry, not only discerned the absurdity of the old 

1 disadvantages, 

2 You will, perhaps, be as much surprised as I was (when, 
many years ago, the observation was, first, made to me) to under 
stand, that this sagacious person 



romances, but has even ridiculed them with incom 
parable spirit. 

His RIME OF SIR TOPAZ in the Canterbury tales, 1 
is a manifest banter on these books, and may be con 
sidered as a sort of prelude to the adventures of Don 
Quixot. 2 I call it a manifest banter : For we are to 
observe that this was Chaucer's own tale, and that, 
when in the progress of it the good sense of the Host 
is made to break in upon him, and interrupt him, 
Chaucer approves his disgust and, changing his 
note, tells the simple instructive tale of Melibo3us, 
a moral tale virtuous , as he chuses to characterize 3 it ; 
to shew, what sort of fictions were most expressive of 
real life, and most proper to be put into the hands 
of the people. 4 

One might further observe that the Rime of Sir 
Topaz itself is so managed as with infinite humour to 
expose the leading impertinences of books of chivalry, 
and their impertinencies only ; as may be seen by the 
different conduct of this tale, from that of Cambuscan, 
which Spenser and Milton were so pleased with, and 
which with great propriety is put into the mouth of 
the SQUIRE. 

1 " His Rime of Sir Topaz in the Canterbury Tales, (said the 
curious observer, on whose authority I am now building) 

2 Quixote s terms it 

* For the different reading of the two following paragraphs 
see Appendix K. 

K 2 But 


But I must not anticipate the observations which 
you will take a pleasure to make for yourself on these 
two fine parts of the Canterbury tales. Enough is said 
to illustrate the point, I am now upon, " That these 
" phantoms of chivalry had the misfortune to be 
" laughed out of countenance by men of sense, before 
" the substance of it had been fairly and truly repre- 
" sented by any capable writer." 

STILL, the principal reason of all, no doubt, was, 
That the Gothic manners of Chivalry, as springing x - 
out of the feudal system, were as singular, as that 
system itself : So that, when that political constitution 
vanished out of Europe, the manners, that belonged 
to it, were no longer seen or understood. There was 
no example of any such manners remaining on the face 
of the Earth : And as they never did subsist but once, 
and are never likely to subsist again, people would be 
led of course to think and speak of them, as romantic, 
and unnatural. The consequence of which was a total 
contempt and rejection of them ; while the classic 
manners, as arising out of the customary and usual 
situations of humanity, would have many archetypes, 
and appear natural even to those who saw nothing 
similar to them actually subsisting before their 

1 cause of all, which brought disgrace on the Gothic manners 
of Chivalry, no doubt, was, That these manners, which sprang 



Thus, tho' the manners of Homer are perhaps as 
different from our's, as those of Chivalry itself, yet as 
we know that such manners always belong to rude and 
simple ages, such as Homer paints ; and actually sub 
sist at this day in countries that are under the like 
circumstances of barbarity, we readily agree to call 
them natural, and even take a fond pleasure in the 
survey of them. 

Your question then is easily answered, without any 
obligation upon me to give up the Gothic manners as 
visionary and fantastic. And the reason appears, why 
the Faery Queen, one of the noblest productions oi 
modern poetry, is fallen into so general a neglect, that 
all the zeal of it's commentators is esteemed officious 
and impertinent, and will never restore it to those 
honours which it has, once for all, irrecoverably 

In effect, what way of persuading the generality of 
readers that the romantic manners are to be accounted 
natural, when not one in ten-thousand know r s enough 
of the barbarous ages, in which they arose, to believe 
they ever really existed ? 

Poor Spenser then, 

" in whose gentle spright 
The pure well-head of Poesie did dwell," 



must, for ought l I can see, be left to the admiration 
of a few lettered and curious men : While the many 
are sworn together to give no quarter to the marvellous, 
or, which may seem still harder, to the moral of his song. 

However this great revolution in modern taste was 
brought about by degrees ; and the steps, that led to 
it, may be worth the tracing in a distinct Letter. 


THE wonders of Chivalry were still in the memory 
of men, were still existing, in some measure, 
in real life, when Chaucer undertook to expose the 
barbarous relaters of them. 

This ridicule, we may suppose, hastened the fall both 
of Chivalry and Romance. At least from that time 
the spirit of both declined very fast, and at length fell 
into such discredit, that when now Spenser arose, and 
with a genius singularly fitted to immortalize the land 
of faery, he met with every difficulty and disadvantage 
to obstruct his design. 

The age would no longer bear the naked letter of 
these amusing stories ; and the poet was so sensible 
of the misfortune, that we find him apologizing for 
it on a hundred occasions. 

1 aught 



But apologies, in such circumstances, rarely do any 
good. Perhaps, they only served to betray the weak 
ness of the poet's cause, and to confirm the prejudices 
of his reader. 

However, he did more than this. He gave an air of 
mystery to his subject, and pretended that his stories 
of knights and giants were but the cover to abundance 
of profound wisdom. 

In short, to keep off the eyes of the prophane from 
prying too nearly into his subject, he threw about it 
the mist of allegory : he moralized his song : and- 
the virtues and vices lay hid under his warriours l and 
enchanters. A contrivance which he had learned 
indeed from his Italian masters : For Tasso had conde 
scended to allegorize his own work ; and the commen 
tators of Ariosto had even converted the extravagances 
of the Orlando Furioso, into moral lessons. 

And this, it must be owned, was a sober attempt in 
comparison of some projects that were made about 
the same time to serve the cause of the old, and now 
expiring Romances. For it is to be observed, that the 
idolizers of these 2 romances did by them, what the 
votaries of Homer had done by him. As the times 
improved and would less bear his strange tales, they 
moralized what they could, and turn'd the rest into 
1 warriors * those 



mysteries of natural science. And as this last con 
trivance was principally designed to cover the 
monstrous stories of the pagan Gods, so it served the 
lovers of Romance to palliate the no less monstrous 
stories of magic and enchantments* 

The editor, or translator of the 24th book of Amadis 
de Gaule, printed at Lyons in 1577, has a preface 
explaining the whole secret, which concludes with 
these words, " Voyla, Lecteur, le FRUIT, qui se peut 
recueiller du sens mystique des Romans antiques par les 
ESPRITS ESLEUS, le commun peuple soy contentant de 

But to return to Spenser ; who, as we have seen, had 
no better way to take in his distress, than to hide his 
faery fancies under the mystic cover of moral allegory. 
The only favourable circumstance that attended him 
(and this no doubt encouraged, if it did not produce 2 
his untimely project) was, that he was somewhat 
befriended in these fictions, even when interpreted" 
according to the Letter, by the romantic Spirit of his 
age ; much countenanced, and for a time brought into 
fresh credit, by the romantic Elizabeth. Her inclina 
tion for the fancies of Chivalry is well known ; and 
obsequious wits and courtiers would not be wanting 
to feed and flatter it. In short, tilts and tournaments 
were in vogue : The Arcadia, and the Faery Queen 
were written. 

1 magic enchantments. produce, 



With these helps the new Spirit of Chivalry made 
a shift to support itself for a time, when reason was but 
dawning, as we may say, and just about to gain the 
ascendant over the portentous spectres of the imagina 
tion. It's growing splendour, in the end, put them all 
to flight, and allowed them no quarter even amongst 
the poets. So that Milton, as fond as we have seen he 
was of the Gothic fictions, durst only admit them on 
the bye, and in the way of simile and illustration 

And this, no doubt, was the main reason of his 
relinquishing his long-projected design of Prince 
Arthur, at last, for that of the Paradise Lost ; where, 
instead of Giants and Magicians, he had Angels and 
Devils to supply him with the marvellous, with greater 
probability. Yet, tho' he dropped the tales, he still 
kept to the allegories of Spenser. And even this liberty 
was thought too much, as appears from the censure 
passed on his Sin and Death by the severer critics. 

Thus at length the magic of the old romances was 
perfectly dissolved. They began with reflecting an 
image indeed of the feudal manners, but an image 
magnified and distorted by unskilful designers. Com 
mon sense being offended with these perversions of 
truth and nature (still accounted the more monstrous, 
as the antient manners, they pretended to copy after, 
were now disused, and of most men forgotten) 1 the next 

1 forgotten), 



step was to have recourse to allegories. Under this 
disguise they walked the world a while ; the excellence 
of the moral and the ingenuity of the contrivance 
making some amends, and being accepted as a sort of 
apology, for the absurdity of the literal story. 

Under this form the tales of faery kept their 
ground, and even made their fortune at court ; where 
they became, for two or three reigns, the ordinary 
entertainment of our princes. But reason, in the end, 
(assisted however by party, and religious prejudices) * 
drove them off the scene, and would endure these lying 
wonders, neither in their own proper shape, nor as 
masked in figures. 

Henceforth, the taste of wit and poetry took a new 
turn : Arid fancy, that had 2 wantoned it so long in the 
world of fiction, was now constrained, against her will, 
to ally herself with strict truth, if she would gain 
admittance into reasonable company. 3 

What we have gotten by this revolution, you will say, 
is a great deal of good sense. What we have lost, is 
a world of fine fabling ; the illusion of which is so 
grateful to the charmed Spirit ; that, in spite of 
philosophy and fashion, Faery Spenser still ranks 

1 prejudices), 2 And the Muse, who had 

8 against her will, 

" To stoop with disenchanted wings to truth," 
as Sir JOHN DENHAM somewhere expresses her present enforced 
state, not unhappily. 



highest among the Poets ; I mean with all those who 
are either come of that house, or have any kindness 
for it. 

Earth-born critics, my friend, may blaspheme, 1 

" But all the GODS are ravish'd with delight 
"Of his celestial Song, and music's wondrous might." 

1 blaspheme: 

The END. 

i S 6 


AND yet (so slippery is the ground, on which we system- 
makers stand) from what I observed of the spirit, with which 
the Crusades were carried on, a hint may be taken, which 
threatens to overturn my whole system. 

It is, ' That, whereas I derive the Crusades from the spirit 
of Chivalry, the circumstances attending the progress of the 
Crusades, and even as pointed out by myself, seem to favour 
the opposite opinion of Chivalry's taking its rise from that 

For thus the argument is drawn out by a learned 
person,* to whom I communicated the substance of my last 

"On the crumbling of the Western empire into small states, 
with regular subordinations of vassals and their chiefs, who 
looked up to a common sovereign, it was soon found that 
those chiefs had it in their power to make themselves very 
formidable to their masters ; and, just in that crisis of 
European manners and empire, the Saracens having expelled 
Christianity from the East, the Western Princes seized the 
opportunity, and with great craft turned the warlike genius 
of their feudatories, which would otherwise have preyed 

1 See Letter IV, p. 93. 

a The late right honourable Charles Yorke ; who to all the 
learning of his own profession had joined an exact taste, and 
very extensive knowledge, of polite literature. What follows is an 
extract from a long letter which this excellent person did me the 
honour to write to me on the subject of these letters, when he had 
read them in the first edition. 



upon themselves, into the spirit of Crusades against the 
common enemy. 

common enemy. 

But when, now, the ardour of the Crusades was abated 
in some sort, though not extinguished, the Gothic princes 
and their families had settled into established monarchies. 
Then it was, that the restless spirit of their vassals, having 
little employment abroad, and being restrained in a good 
degree from exerting itself with success in domestic quarrels, 
broke out in all the extravagances of Knight-Errantry, 

Military fame, acquired in the Holy land, had entitled the 
adventurers to the insignia of arms, the source of Heraldry ; 
and inspired them with the love of war and the passion of 
enterprize. Their late expeditions had given them a turn 
for roving in quest of adventures ; and their religious zeal 
had infused high notions of piety, justice, and chastity. 

The scene of action being now more confined, they turned 
themselves, from the world's debate, to private and personal 
animosities. Chivalry was employed in rescuing humble 
and faithful vassals, from the oppression of petty lords ; their 
women, from savage lust ; and the hoary heads of hermits 
(a species of Eastern monks, much reverenced in the Holy 
land), from rapine and outrage. 

In the mean time the courts of the feudal sovereigns grew 
magnificent and polite ; and, as the military constitution 
still subsisted, military merit was to be upheld ; but, wanting 
its old objects, it naturally softened into the fictitious images 
and courtly exercises of war in justs and tournaments : where 
the honour of the ladies supplied the place of zeal for the 


i 5 8 A P P E N D I X A. 

holy Sepulchre ; and thus the courtesy of elegant love, but 
of a wild and fanatic species, as being engrafted on spiritual 
enthusiasm, came to mix itself with the other characters of 
the Knights-errant." 

In this way, you see, all the characteristics of Chivalry, 
which I had derived from the essential properties of the 
feudal government, are made to result from the spirit of 
Crusades, which with me was only an accidental effect of it : 
and this deduction may be thought to agree best with the 
representation of the old Romancers. 

This hypothesis, so plausible in itself, is very ingeniously 
supported. Yet I have something to object to it ; or rather, 
which flatters me more, I think I can turn it to the advantage 
of my own system. 

For what if I allow (as indeed I needs must) that Chivalry, 
such as we have it represented in books of Romance, so much 
posterior to the date of that military institution, took its 
colour and character from the impressions made on the 
minds of men by the spirit of Crusading into the Holy land ? 
Still it may be true, that Chivalry itself had properly another 
and an earlier origin. And I must think it certainly bad, if 
for no other, yet for this reason : that, unless the seeds of 
that spirit, which appeared in the Crusades, had been 
plentifully sown and indeed grown up into some maturity 
in the feudal times preceding that event, I see not how it 
could have been possible for the Western princes to give 
that politic diversion to their turbulent vassals, which the 
new hypothesis supposes. 


A P P E N D I X A. 159 

In short, there are TWO DISTINCT PERIODS to be carefully 
observed, in a deduction of the rise and progress of 

The FIRST is that in which the empire was overturned, and 
the feudal governments were every where introduced on its 
ruins, by the Northern nations. In this sera, that new policy 
settled itself in the West, and operated so powerfully as to lay 
the first foundations, and to furnish the remote causes, of 
what we know by the name of Chivalry. 

The OTHER period is, when these causes had taken a fuller 
effect, and shewed themselves in that signal enterprize of 
the Crusades ; which not only concurred with the spirit of 
Chivalry, already pullulating in the minds of men, but 
brought a prodigious encrease, and gave a singular force and 
vigour to all its operations. In this aera, Chivalry took deep 
root, and at the same time shot up to its full height and size. 
So that now it was in the state of Virgil's Tree 

Quae quantum vertice ad auras 
/Ethereas, tantum radice in Tartara tendit. 
Ergo non hiemes illam, non flabra, neque imbres 
Convellunt : immota manet, multosque per annos 
Multa virum volvens durando saecula vincit. 

From this last period, the Romancers, whether in prose 
or verse, derive all their ideas of Chivalry. It was natural for 
them to do so ; for they were best acquainted with that 
period : and, besides, it suited their design best ; for the 
manners they were to paint, were then full formed, 



and so distinctly marked as fitted them for the use of 

But that the former period, notwithstanding, really gave 
birth to this institution may be gathered, not only from the 
reason of the thing, but from the surer information of 
authentic history. For there are traces of Chivalry, in its 
most peculiar and characteristic forms, to be found in the 
age preceding the Crusades ; and even justs and tournaments, 
the image of serious Knight-errantry, were certainly of earlier 
date than that event, as I had before occasion to observe 
to you. 

Though I think, then, my notion of the rise of Chivalry 
stands unimpaired, or rather is somewhat illustrated and 
confirmed, by what the excellent person has opposed to it, 
yet I could not hold it fair to conceal so specious and well- 
supported an objection from you. You are too generous to 
take advantage of the arms I put into your hands ; and are, 
besides, so far from any thoughts of combating my system 
itself, that your concern, it seems, is only to know, where 
I learned the several particulars, on which I have formed it. 


EVEN PLUTARCH'S life of THESEUS reads, throughout, like 
a modern Romance : and Sir ARTHEGAL himself is hardly his 
fellow, for righting wrongs and redressing grievances. So 
that EURIPIDES might well make him say of himself, that he had 
chosen the profession and calling of a Knight-errant : for this 

1 See Letter IV, p. 99. 



is the sense, and almost the literal construction, of the follow 
ing verses : 

*E0os rod* (Is *E\\r)vas rcXcafu?y 
"Act KOAA2TH2 TON KAKQN Ko0c?av<u. 

'l/ceVtSfS 1 , ver 340. 

Accordingly, THESEUS is a favourite Hero (witness the 
Knight's Tale in CHAUCER) even with the Romance-writers. 


... so great that the observation of it did not escape the 
old Romancers themselves, with whom, as an ingenious critic 
observes, the siege of THEBES and TROJAN war were favourite 
stories ; the characters and incidents of which they were mixing 
perpetually with their Romances [c]. And to this persuasion 
and practice of the Romance-writers CERVANTES plainly 

alludes, when he makes Don QUIXOTE say If the stories of 

Chivalry be lies, so must it also be, that there ever was a HECTOR, 
or an ACHILLES, or a TROJAN WAR \d\ a sly stroke of satire, 
by which this mortal foe of Chivalry would, I suppose, 
insinuate that the Grecian Romances were just as extravagant 
and as little credible, as the Gothic. Or, whatever his purpose 
might be, the resemblance between them, you see, is con 
fessed, and hath now been shewn in so many instances that 
there will hardly be any doubt of it. 

[c] Mr. WARTON'S Observations on SPENSER, vol. i. p. 175. 
\d\ Don QUIXOTE, b. iv. c. 22. 

1 See Letter V, p. 103. 
824-31 L A P- 



IF you still insist that I carry this matter too far, and that, 
in fact, the introduction of the female succession into fiefs 
was too late to justify me in accounting for the rise of feudal 
gallantry from that circumstance ; you will only teach me to 
frame my answer in a more accurate manner. 

FIRST then, I shall confess that the way to avoid all con 
fusion on this subject would be, to distinguish carefully 
between the state of things in the early feudal times, and 
that in the later, when the genius of the feudal law was much 
changed and corrupted ; and that, whoever would go to the 
bottom of this affair, should keep a constant eye on this 
reasonable distinction. 

BUT then, secondly, I may observe, that this distinction is 
the less necessary to be attended to in the present case, 
because the law of female succession, whenever it was intro 
duced, had certainly taken place long before the Romancers 
wrote, from whom we derive all our ideas of the feudal 
gallantry. So that, if you take their word for the gallantry 
of those times, you may very consistently, if you please, 
accept my account of it. For it is but supposing that the 
feudal gallantry, such as they paint it, was the offspring of that 
privilege, such as they saw the ladies then possess, of feudal 
succession. And the connexion between these two things 
is so close and so natural, that we cannot be much mistaken 
in deducing the one from the other. 

1 See Letter V, p. 106. 



IT is true, as to the charge of domestic licence, so exactly 
does the parallel run between old Greece and old England, 
I find one exception to it, in each country : and that one, 
a Romance-critic would shew himself very uncourteous, if 
he did not take a pleasure to celebrate. GUY, the renowned 
earl of Warwick, old stories say, returned from the holy 
wars to his lady in the disguise of a pilgrim or beggar, as 
ULYSSES did to PENELOPE. What the suspicions were of the 
Knight and the Hero, the contrivance itself but too plainly 
declares. But their fears were groundless in both cases. Only 
the Knight seems to have had the advantage of the Prince of 
ITHACA : for, instead of rioting suitors to drive out of his 
castle, he had only to contemplate his good lady in the 
peaceful and pious office of distributing daily alms to xm poor 

No conclusion, however, is to be drawn from a single 
instance ; and, in general, it is said, the adventurers into the 
Holy Land could no more depend on the fidelity of their 
spouses, than of their vassals. 


You will tell me, perhaps, that these fancies, as terrible as 
they were, are but of a piece with those of Pagan superstition ; 
and that nothing can exceed what the classic writers have 
related or feigned of its magic and necromantic horrors. 

To spare you the trouble of mustering up against me all 
that your extensive knowledge of antiquity would furnish, 

1 See Letter V, p. 106. 8 See Letter VI, p. 1 10. 

L i let 

164 A P P E N D I X F. 

let me confess to you that many of the antient poets have 
occasionally adorned this theme. If, among twenty others, 
I select only the names of OVID, SENECA, and LUCAN, it is, 
because these writers, by the character of their genius, were 
best qualified for the task, and have, besides, exerted their 
whole strength upon it. LUCAN, especially, has drawn out 
all the pomp of his eloquence in celebrating those THESSALIAN 

ficti quas nulla licentia monstri 
Transierat, quarum, quicquid non creditur, ars est, 

YET STILL I pretend to shew you that all his prodigies, fall 
short of the Gothic : and you will come the less reluctantly 
into my sentiments, if you reflect, " THAT the thick and 
troubled stream of superstition, which flowed so plentifully 
in the classic ages, has been constantly deepening and darken 
ing by the confluence of those supplies, which ignorance and 
corrupted religion have poured in upon it." 

FIRST, you will call to mind that all the gloomy visions of 
daemons and spirits, which sprung out of the Alexandrian or 
Platonic philosophy, were in the later ages of Paganism 
engrafted on the old stock of classic superstition. These 
portentous dreams, new hatched to the woful time, as SHAKE- 
SPEAR speaks, enabled APULEIUS to outdo LUCAN himself, in 
some of his magic scenes and exhibitions. 

NEXT, you will observe that a fresh and exhaustless swarm 
of the direst superstitions took their birth in the frozen 
regions of the north, and were naturally enough conceived 
in the imaginations of a people involved in tenfold darkness ; 
I mean, in the thickest shades of ignorance, as well as in the 
gloom of their comfortless woods and forests. I call these 
the direst superstitions ; for though the south and east may 


A P P E N D I X F. 165 

have produced some that shew more wild and fantastic, yet 
those of the north have ever been of a more sombrous and 
horrid aspect, agreeably to the singular circumstances and 
situation of that savage and benighted people. 

THESE dismal fancies, which the barbarians carried out 
with them in their migrations into the north-west, took the 
readier and the faster hold of men's minds, from the kindred 
darkness into which the western world was then fallen, and 
from the desolation (so apt to engender all fearful conceits 
and apprehensions) which every where attended the incur 
sions of those ravagers. 

LASTLY, before the Romancers applied themselves to dress 
up these dreadful stories, Christian superstition had grown 
to its height, and had transferred on the magic system all its 
additional and supernumerary horrors. 

TAKING, now, the whole togethef, you will clearly see 
what we are to conclude of the Gothic system of prodigy and 
enchantment ; which was not so properly a single system, 
as the aggregate, 

of all that nature breeds 
Perverse ; all monstrous, all prodigious things, 
Which fables yet had feign'd or fear conceiv'd. 

For, to the frightful forms of antient necromancy (which 
easily travelled down to us, when the fairer offspring of pagan 
invention lost its way, or was swallowed up in the general 
darkness of the barbarous ages) were now joined the hideous 
phantasms which had terrified the northern nations ; and, 
to complete the horrid groupe, with these were incorporated 
the still more tremendous spectres of Christian superstition. 


1 66 A P P E N D I X F. 

IN this state of things, as I said, the Romancers went to 
work ; and with these multiplied images of terror on their 
minds, you will conclude, without being at the pains to form 
particular comparisons, that they must manage ill indeed, not 
to surpass, in this walk of magical incantation, the original 
classic fablers. 

BUT, if you require a comparison, I can tell you where it is 
to be made, with much ease, and to great advantage : I mean, 
in SHAKESPEAR'S Macbeth, where you will find (as his best 
critic observes) " the Danish or Northern, intermixed with 
" the Greek and Roman enchantments ; and all these worked 
" up together with a sufficient quantity of our own country 
" superstitions. So that SHAKESPEAR'S Witch-Scenes (as the 
" same writer adds) are like the charms they prepare in one of 
" them : where the ingredients are gathered from every thing 
" shocking in the natural world ; as here, from every thing 
"absurd in the moral" 

OR, if you suspect this instance, as deriving somewhat of 
its force and plausibility from the magic hand of this critic, 
you may turn to another in a great poet of that time ; who 
has been at the pains to make the comparison himself, and 
whose word, as he gives it in honest prose, may surely be 

IN a work of B. JONSON, which he calls THE MASQUE OF 
QUEENS, there are some Witch scenes ; written with singular 
care, and in emulation, as it may seem, of SHAKESPEAR'S ; 
but certainly with the view (for so he tells us himself) of recon 
ciling the -practice of antiquity to the neoteric, and making it 
familiar with our 'popular witchcraft. 


A P P E N D I X F. 167 

THIS Masque is accompanied with notes of the learned 
author, who had rifled all the stores of antient and modern 
D&monomagy, to furnish out his entertainment ; and who 
takes care to inform us, under each head, whence he had 
fetched the ingredients, out of which it is compounded. 

IN this elaborate work of JONSON you have, then, an easy 
opportunity of comparing the antient, with the modern 
magic. And though, as he was an idolater of the antients, 
you will expect him to draw freely from that source, yet from 
the large use he makes, too, of his other more recent authori 
ties, you will perceive that some of the darkest shades of his 
picture are owing to hints and circumstances which he had 
catched, and could only catch, from the Gothic enchant 
ments. Even such of these circumstances, as, taken by 
themselves, seem of less moment, should not be overlooked, 
since (as the poet well observes of them) though they be but 
minutes in ceremony, yet they make the act more dark and full 
of horror. 

THUS MUCH, then, may serve for a cast of SHAKESPEAR'S and 
JONSON'S magic : abundantly sufficient, I must think, to 
convince you of the superiority of the Gothic charms and 
incantations, to the classic. 


HE should either have done nothing, or more. This 
objection I find insisted upon by SPENSER'S best critic [d] ; 
and, I think, the objection is unanswerable : at least, I know 

[d] Mr. WARTON, Obs. on the F. Q. p. 7. vol. i. Lond. 1762. 
1 See Letter VIII, p. 125. 



of nothing that can be said to remove it, but what I have 
supposed above might be the purpose of the poet, and which 
I myself have rejected as insufficient. 


BUT now, as to the extravagance of these fictions, it is 
frequently, I believe, much less than these laughers appre 

To give an instance or two, of this sort. 

ONE of the strangest circumstances in those books, is that of 
the women-warriors, with which they all abound. BUTLER, 
in his Hudibras, who saw it only in the light of a poetical 
invention, ridicules it, as a most unnatural idea, with great 
spirit. Yet in this representation, they did but copy from 
the manners of the times. ANNA COMNENA tells us, in the 
life of her father, that the wife of ROBERT the Norman fought 
side by side with her husband, in his battles ; that she would 
rally the flying soldiers, and lead them back to the charge : 
and NICETAS observes, that, in the time of MANUEL COMNENA, 
there were in one Crusade many women, armed like men, on 

What think you now of TASSO'S Clarinda, whose prodigies 
of valour I dare say you have often laughed at ? Or, rather, 
what think you of that constant pair, 

" GILDIPPE et ODOARDO amanti e sposi, 
" In valor d'arme, e in lealta famosi ? " 

c. in. s. 40. 

1 See Letter X, p. 135. 


A P P E N D I X H. 169 

AGAIN : what can be more absurd and incredible, it is 
often said, than the vast armies we read of in Romance ? 
a circumstance, to which MILTON scruples not to allude in 
those lines of his Paradise Regained 

Such forces met not, nor so wide a camp, 

When AGRICAN with all his northern powers 

Besieg'd Albracca, as Romances tell, 

The city' of GALLAPHRONE, from thence to win 

The fairest of her sex, ANGELICA. B. in. ver. 337. 

THE classical reader is much scandalized on these occasions, 
and never fails to cry out on the impudence of these lying 
fablers. Yet if he did but reflect on the prodigious swarms 
which Europe sent out in the Crusades, and that the trans 
actions of those days furnished the Romance-writers with 
their ideas and images, he would see that the marvellous in 
such stories was modest enough, and did not very much 
exceed the strict bounds of historical representation. 

THE first army, for instance, that marched for the Holy 
Land, even after all the losses it had sustained by the way, 
amounted, we are told, when it came to be mustered in the 
plains of Asia, to no less than seven hundred thousand fight 
ing men : a number, which would almost have satisfied the 
Romancer's keenest appetite for wonder and amplification. 

A THIRD instance may be thought still more remarkable. 

" WE read perpetually of walls of fire raised by magical 
"art to stop the progress of knights-errant. In TASSO, the 
" wizard ISMENO guards the inchanted forest with walls of fire. 
" In the Orlando Inamorato, L. HI. c. i. MANDRICARDO is 
" endeavoured to be stopped by enchanted flames ; but he 
" makes his way through all." 


1 70 A P P E N D I X H. 

THUS far the learned editor of the Fairy Queen [Notes on 
B. in. c. xi. s. 25.] who contents himself, like a good Romance- 
critic, with observing the fact, without the irreverence of 
presuming to account for it. But if the profane will not be 
kept within this decent reserve, we may give them to under 
stand, that this fancy, as wild as it appears, had some founda 
tion in truth. For I make no question but these fires, raised 
by magical art, to stop the progress of assailants, were only 
the flames of FEUGREGEOIS, as it was called, that is of WILD 
FIRE, which appeared so strange, on its first invention and 
application, in the barbarous ages. 

WE hear much of its wonders in the history of the Crusades ; 
and even so late as SPENSER'S own time they were not for 
gotten. DAVILA, speaking of the siege of Poitiers in 1569, tells 

us Abbondavano nella citta le provision! da guerra ; tra le 

quali, quantita inestimabile di FUOCHI ARTIFICIATI, lavorati in 
diverse maniere, ne* quali avenano i defensori posta grandissima 
speranza di respingere gli assalti dinemici. Lib. v. 

HENCE, without doubt, the magical flames and fiery walls, 
of the Gothic Romancers [g] ; and who will say, that the 
specious miracles of HOMER himself had a better foundation ? 

BUT, after all, this is not the sort of defence I mean chiefly 
to insist upon. Let others explain away these wonders, ser"~ 
offensive to certain philosophical critics. They are welcome 
to me in their own proper form, and with all the extravagance 
commonly imputed to them. 

[g] For an account of some other wonders in Romance, such 
as enchanted arms, invulnerable bodies, flying horses, &c. see 
V Esprit des Loix, 1. xxviii. c. 22. 



[i] A celebrated writer, whose good sense, or whose per- 
verseness, would not suffer him to be the dupe of French 
prejudices, declares himself roundly of this opinion : " On 
" a voulu mettre en representation (says he, speaking of the 
"absurd magnificence of the French Opera) le MERVEILLEUX, 
" qui, n'etant fait que pour etre imagine, EST AUSSI BIEN PLACE 
" DANS UN POEME EPiQUE que ridiculement sur un theatre." 
[Nouv. Heloise, p. n. 1. xxiii.] 


IT is, further, to be noted that the tale of the Giant 
OLYPHANT and Chylde TOPAZ was not a fiction of his own, but 
a story of antique fame, and very celebrated in the Days of 
Chivalry : so that nothing could better suit the poet's design 
of discrediting the old Romances, than the choice of this 
venerable legend for the vehicle of his ridicule upon them. 

BUT what puts the satiric purpose of the Rime of Sir TOPAZ 
out of all question, is, that this short poem is so managed as, 
with infinite humour, to expose the leading impertinencies 
of books of Chivalry ; the very same, which CERVANTES after 
wards drew out, and exposed at large, in his famous history. 

1 See Letter X, p. 140. 
z See Letter XI, p. 147. 


i/2 A P P E N D I X K. 

INDEED Sir TOPAZ is all Don QUIXOTE in little ; as you will 
easily see from comparing the two knights together ; who 
are drawn with the same features, are characterized by the 
same strokes, and differ from each other but as a sketch in 
miniature from a finished and full-sized picture. 

I. CERVANTES is very particular in describing the -person 
and habit of his Hero, agreeably to the known practice of 
the old Romancers. CHAUCER does the same by his knight, 
and in a manner that almost equals the arch-gravity of the 
Spanish author : 

Sir TOPAZ was a doughty swaine, 
White was his face as paine maine, 

His lippes red as rose, 
His rudde is like scarlet in graine, 
And I you tell in good certaine, 

He had a seemely nose. 

His haire, his berde, was like safroune, 
That to his girdle raught adowne, 

His shoone of cordewaine, 
Of Bruges were his hosen broun, 
His robe was of chekelatoun, 

That cost many a jane. 

2. CERVANTES tells us how Don QUIXOTE passed his time 
in the country, before he turned Knight-errant. CHAUCER, 
in the same spirit, celebrates his knight's country diversions 



of hunting, hawking, shooting, and wrestling, those known 
prolusions to feats of arms : 

He couth hunt at the wilde dere, 
And ride an banking for by the rivere 

With grey GOSHAUKE on honde, 
Thereto he was a good archere, 
Of wrastling was there none his pere 

There any Ram should stonde. 

3. THE Knights of Romance were used to dedicate their 
services to some paragon of beauty, such as was only con 
ceived to exist in the land of Fairy, and could no where be 
found in this vulgar disenchanted world. Hence one of the 
strongest features in Don QUIXOTE'S character is the sublime 
passion he had conceived for an imaginary or fairy mistress. 
Sir TOPAZ is not behind him in this extravagance : 

An Elfe-queene woll I love, I wis, 
For in this world no woman is 

To be my make in towne, 
All other women I forsake 
And to an Elfe-queene I me take 

By dale and eke by downe. 

4. DON QUIXOTE'S passion for this idol of his fancy was so 
violent, that, after all the bangs and bruises of the day, 
instead of suffering his weary limbs to take any rest, it occu 
pied him all night with incessant dreams and reveries of his 
mistress. Sir TOPAZ is in the same woful plight : 

Sir TOPAZ eke so weary was 
That down he laid him in that place 
Oh, Saint MARY, benedicite 
What aileth this love at me 
To blind me so sore ? 


174 A P P E N D I X K. 

Me dreamed all this night parde 

An Elfe-queen shall my leman be 

And sleepe under my gore. 

5. As the chastity of the hero of LA MANCHA is well known, 
from a variety of trying temptations, so Sir TOPAZ dis 
tinguishes himself by this knightly virtue : 

Full many a maide bright in boure 
They mourne for him their paramoure. 

Whan hem were bet to sleepe, 
But he was chaste and no lechoure, 
And sweet as is the bramble floure 

That bereth the red hipe. 

6. THE fight of Sir TOPAZ with the Giant of three heads, 
in honour of his mistress, 

For needes must he fight 

With a giant with heads thre, 

For paramours and jolitie 
Of one that shone full bright 

together with his arming, and the whole ridiculous prepara-. 
tion for the combat, described at large in several stanzas, is 
exactly in the style and taste of CERVANTES, on similar 

7. CERVANTES gives us to understand that it was familiar 
with his knight to sleep in the open air, to endure all hard 
ships that befell, and to let his horse graze by him. CHAUCER, 
in like manner, of his knight, with much humour : 



And for he was a knight auntrous, 
He nolde slepen in none house 

But Hggen in his hood, 
His bright helme was his wanger 
And by him fed his destrer 

Of herbes fine and good. 

8. AND, lastly, as CERVANTES, after the example of the 
Roma nee- writers, will have it, that his knight surpasses all 
others of antient fame, so DAN CHAUCER is careful to vindicate 
this high prerogative, to his hero : 

Men speaken of Romances of pris 

Of BEVIS and Sir GIE, 
But Sir TOPAZ, he beareth the floure 

Of rial chivalrie." 

THUS far, at least to this effect, the concealed author (for 
the dispensers of these fairy favours would not be inquired 
after) of this new interpretation of the Rime of Sir TOPAZ. 
Other circumstances of resemblance might be added (for 
when a well-grounded hint of this sort is once given, and 
opened in some instances, it is not difficult to pursue it), but 
one needs go no further to be certain that the general scope 
of this poem is, Burlesque. 

ONLY, I would observe, that though, in this ridiculous 
ballad, the poet clearly intended to expose the Romances 
of the time, as they were commonly written, he did not 
mean, absolutely and under every form, to condemn the 
kind of writing itself : as, I think, we must conclude from 

176 A P P E N D I X K. 

the serious air, and very different conduct, of the SQUIRE'S 
TALE ; which SPENSER and MILTON were so particularly 
pleased with. 

WE learn too, from the same tale, that, though CHAUCER 
could be as pleasant on the other fooleries of Romance, as 
any modern critic, he let the marvellous of it escape his 
ridicule, or rather esteemed this character of the Gothic 
Romance, no foolery. For the tale of CAMBUSCAN is all over 
MARVELLOUS ; and MILTON, by specifying the virtuous ring 
and glass, and the wondrous horse of brass, as the circumstances 
that charmed him most, shews very plainly, that, in his 
opinion, these amusing fictions were well placed, and of 
principal consideration, as they surely are, in this Fairy way 
of writing. 

BUT, whatever our old Bard would insinuate by his manage 
ment of this enchanting tale, and whatever conclusions have, 
in fact, been drawn from it by such superior and congenial 
spirits as our two epic poets, the half-told story of CAMBUSCAN 
could never atone for the mischiefs done to the cause of 
Romance, by the pointed ridicule of the Rime of Sir TOPAZ. 
Common readers would be naturally induced by it to reject 
the old Romances, in the gross : and thus it happened, 
according to the observation I set out with, " that these 
" phantoms of Chivalry had the misfortune to be laughed 
" out of countenance by men of sense, before the substance 
"of it had been fairly and truly represented by any capable 




PR Kurd, Richard, Bp. of 

3517 Worcester 

H78A16 Kurd's letters on chivalry 

& romance 
cop. 2